Thanks to efforts by the city and One Vision One Voice, a collective of nonprofits behind recent campaigns to end homelessness, Norman was selected recently to be one of 69 communities to participate in Zero: 2016, a nationwide campaign to end veteran and chronic homelessness in those communities by the end of 2016.
Zero: 2016 is spearheaded by New York-based nonprofit Community Solutions. The national program will work in tandem with Norman’s One Vision One Voice and the Cleveland County Continuum of Care.
Most of the work on Zero: 2016 will start after January. Near the end of the month, two separate counts will be taken to assess the number of homeless people in Norman. One count, the Point in Time, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The second, I Count, is part of One Vision One Voice’s initiative that not only counts the homeless but ranks them according to their vulnerability.
“We’re hoping that between those two sets of numbers we’re going to get a true grasp on where we are and where we need to be,” said Michelle Evans, of the city’s Planning and Community Development Department. “The 2016 initiative is a pretty intense guideline, and we have to be realistic in where we are with people sheltered and those unsheltered.”
Like other recent Norman programs, Zero: 2016 follows the “housing first” principle. Instead of giving priority to homeless individuals who have met certain criteria, such as getting sober or seeking work, “housing first” focuses on taking the most vulnerable people off the streets regardless of any health or substance abuse issues they may have.
Under the guidelines of One Vision One Voice, the most vulnerable — or those deemed most likely to die on the streets — will be housed first.