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Key Definitions

February 1, 2019

By-Name List

A comprehensive list of every person in a community experiencing homelessness, updated in real-time. Each person on the list has a file that includes their name, history, health, and housing needs


In the United States, the physical span of most Built for Zero communities are represented by Continuums of Care, which are regional or local bodies that receive and disburse federal funding for housing and homelessness. There are more than 400 continuums of care in the country, and their geographic spans vary widely. When we refer to a Built for Zero community, we are often referring to a group that includes the Continuum of Care (usually comprised of local non-profit providers), the Housing Authority, and the VA Medical Centers.

Ending Homelessness

When we refer to ending homelessness, we mean that a community has reached functional zero, a standard developed by Community Solutions that indicates that homelessness in that community is rare overall and brief when it occurs. More detailed definitions of functional zero are listed below.

Ending homelessness does not mean that no person will ever experience homelessness in a community. It means that systems are in place to ensure that any experience of homelessness is brief and permanently resolved, and rare overall. As an analogy, a well-functioning health care system will not necessarily prevent people from getting sick. But it will ensure that people who fall ill are triaged appropriately and receive the services they need so their illness does not become a crisis.

Functional Zero – Veterans

A community has reached functional zero for veteran homelessness when the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is less than the number of veterans a community has proven it can house in a month, with a minimum threshold of 3.

Functional Zero definition (veteran))

Functional Zero – Chronic

A community has ended chronic homelessness when the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness is zero, or if not zero, than either 3 or .1% of the total number of individuals reported in the most recent point-in-time count, whichever is greater.

Functional Zero definition (chronic)

People Experiencing Homelessness

We refer to individuals or groups as a person, people or populations experiencing homelessness, rather than referring to those people as “the homeless.” We avoid words and expressions that reduce a person’s identity to any single experience that they don’t claim themselves. Such labels can have a dehumanizing, disparaging and harmful impact on the people they aim to describe.


A shift in a communities’ data on who is experiencing homelessness occurs when there are six consecutive data points above or below the median.

When six data points in a row fall above or below the median, we can say with statistical confidence that the system has shifted, meaning the definition of normal has changed.