Media Contact: Bethany Snyder
- Bakersfield/Kern County, California, is among an elite group of five communities in the country that have been recognized for reaching functional zero for chronic homelessness.
- To achieve this certification, the community must maintain a reality where chronic homelessness is rare, with fewer than three people experiencing chronic homelessness at any given time.
- This certification indicates that the community has achieved a gold standard system of support that helps the most vulnerable members of the community exit homelessness.
- Chronic homelessness is long-lasting or recurring homelessness for a community’s most vulnerable neighbors. It is defined by the federal government as impacting people who live with a documented disability and have experienced verifiable homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over three years.
BAKERSFIELD, CA — Bakersfield/Kern County has become the fifth community in the country to be certified for reaching functional zero for chronic homelessness, a gold standard system of support for serving the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.
Chronic homelessness is long-lasting or recurring homelessness for a community’s most vulnerable neighbors. It is defined by the federal government as impacting people who live with a documented disability and have experienced verifiable homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over the last 3 years.
A community has achieved functional zero when it can continually ensure chronic homelessness is rare — maintaining a reality where three or fewer people are experiencing this long-lasting homelessness.
The national recognition comes from Built for Zero, an initiative of more than 80 cities and counties working to measurably end homelessness. This definition for solving chronic homelessness is shared between Built for Zero and the federal government.
Beth Sandor, Co-Director of Built for Zero, said: “Built for Zero is proud to certify Bakersfield and Kern County as the fifth community in the country to reach functional zero for chronic homelessness, developing a gold standard system of support for the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. While this does not mean that the community will never have another person experiencing long-lasting or recurring homelessness, it does prove that this community has a system of support in place to promptly identify and place people on the pathway to home. Built for Zero, and the movement to end homelessness, is grateful to this community for providing proof of what is possible. We look forward to continuing to work with this community to sustain this amazing achievement.”
The community has proven to now have a data-driven, coordinated system that ensures people are promptly connected to the support they need to exit homelessness.
- The number of people experiencing chronic homelessness has been reduced from 62 in January of 2019 to just two people experiencing chronic homelessness today.
- The community has maintained an average of four people experiencing chronic homelessness throughout the entire year of 2020.
Bakersfield built a unified regional team, or a “command center,” around a shared goal of getting to functional zero. They created what is called a by-name list, or a master list of real-time data to know every person experiencing chronic homelessness by name, and target their resources accordingly.
In 2019, Kaiser Permanente joined the Built for Zero movement as a national partner. As the Kern County team entered the last mile of their efforts to reach functional zero, Kaiser Permanente provided funding to support efforts to further drive down the numbers.
David Womack, Sr. Vice President at Kaiser Permanente Kern County, said: “For Kaiser Permanente, housing is health, yet we know many of the communities we serve are grappling with extreme rates of housing insecurity and homelessness. The Kern County Built for Zero collaborative’s commitment and focus has been remarkable and we are thrilled to support them in creating the tools and resources needed to eliminate homelessness in our community.”
Bakersfield first reached the threshold for functional zero for chronic homelessness in January 2020 and sustained it for three months. Even as the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness rose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community was able to drive the numbers back down. Today there are just two people experiencing chronic homelessness.
Nate French, Portfolio Lead for Built for Zero, said: “Reaching functional zero is not about crossing a finish line and calling the job finished. It is about proving what is possible, and continually sustaining a reality where homelessness is a brief occurrence, rather than something that defines a person. This achievement itself is rare and demonstrates that places like Bakersfield and Kern County are in a class of its own.”
Eddie Turner, Strategy Lead at Built for Zero, said: “This team has proven to be on the leading edge of the movement to end homelessness and an exceptional leader in harnessing the power of data. There was not one big blockbuster idea to fix all their problems. What this achievement represents is the fruit of persistent, piece-by-piece work of this community to improve their systems for their most vulnerable neighbors. The community’s rigor, persistence, and commitment to serving people experiencing homelessness is a model for every community across the country.”
Built for Zero is a national initiative of 80 cities and counties that have committed to measurably ending homelessness, one population at a time. Using a data-driven methodology, these communities have changed how local homeless response systems work and the impact they can achieve. Learn more at www.builtforzero.org or follow us at @BuiltforZero. Media Contact: Bethany Snyder, firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-728-0079