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American City & County: Former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey on ending homelessness and improving health outcomes

August 10, 2021

Written by former Mayor of Rockford, IL Larry Morrissey on August 1oth, 2021.

A city’s homeless population can encompass a complex mix of health and socioeconomic challenges like housing affordability and availability, job training and opportunities, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health services, domestic violence, health care costs, health insurance and health provider access. And the web of partners and resources designed to address homelessness can be equally challenging with a wide spectrum of providers ranging from large hospital systems, human and social service agencies, managed care case managers, police and fire personnel, faith-based organizations, emergency shelters, jails and correctional facilities, etc.

Navigating this complex web can be difficult for anyone dealing with a health or social challenge, let alone someone who is homeless. Taken together, the mass complexity of problems, providers, payers and places was impossible for us to solve. But by December of 2015, that’s precisely what we did, reaching “functional zero,” effectively ending Veteran Homelessness in our community. What did we do differently?