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GovTech: Project Uses Human-Centered Design to Tackle Homelessness

September 17, 2021

For many years, homelessness response work involved counting up — counting how many people are put in new homes, or how many are provided with government services, or how many are taken off the streets in other ways, and so on.

A few years back, however, one nonprofit group in the space decided to change its benchmarking. Instead of counting up, the group started counting down. Down to zero people experiencing homelessness in any given community. On the surface, it might seem like a simple change, but in practice, it’s one that has now made a major difference, leading to what is quite possibly the most successful gov tech effort in homelessness response of all time.

The group who made this change is Community Solutions, and its homelessness response program is the aptly named Built For Zero. While counting down may be the central tenet of its philosophy, its work has actually been rising, with Built for Zero now containing 89 participating communities across the United States.