Research & Evaluation | ,

Our path toward a tipping point

We're working to create a tipping point in the U.S. in which the conditions are primed for any community to create a lasting end to homelessness.
March 28, 2023

Community Solutions aims to create a tipping point in the United States by July 31, 2026, in which the conditions are primed for any community to create a lasting end to homelessness.

In this future, it is the norm, not the exception, that homelessness is rare, brief, and permanently resolved whenever and wherever it is experienced. Our theory of change aims to establish the conditions and generate the learning and proof needed to make this an achievable reality in every U.S. community. 

Proof of Solvability: 50 communities have solved homelessness across 75 populations

The myth that homelessness is intractable is pervasive, and it is a powerful, self-fulfilling prophecy. By working with a broad cross-section of communities, we aim to demonstrate that homelessness is solvable in any context.

Built for Zero, our vehicle for this effort, is a national movement of 105 cities, counties, and regions working to reach functional zero homelessness. We aim to help a critical mass — 50 of these communities — achieve functional zero, across 75 populations, by July 31, 2026. With this robust and mounting evidence, we will demonstrate that homelessness can be solved for all sub-populations across communities of varying geographies, sizes, and political leanings.

Homelessness results when people have crashed through layers upon layers of the social safety net. It is a result of systems and policies failing our communities and perpetuating the suffering and marginalization of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. We can end this cycle.

Systems are designed by people — and they can be redesigned. Through Built for Zero, we support communities in shifting their mindsets and systems from managing the crisis of homelessness to eliminating it. Through this work, we have identified several essential features of a system designed to reduce and end homelessness.

Features of a system designed to reduce and end homelessness

  • A shared aim and belief that homelessness is solvable
  • A collaborative, community-wide team that is accountable for reducing and ending homelessness
  • High-quality data systems that support a culture of continuous improvement
  • An aligned and effective coordinated system whereby all providers 1) allocate housing and services through a single process and according to shared protocol (also known as a coordinated entry system) and 2) participate in recurring, problem-solving efforts to collectively remove barriers to housing (also known as case conferencing)
  • Establishment a racially equitable homeless response system
  • Policy mechanisms to clear structural and administrative barriers to ending homelessness
  • Strategic, data-driven investments to reduce homelessness long-term and flexible financial resources to clear immediate barriers to housing

Communities in Built for Zero apply these principles toward building new systems designed to accelerate exits from homelessness (outflow) and prevent people from experiencing homelessness in the first place (inflow). A successful system is measured by its ability to achieve and sustain functional zero, a measurable state in which instances of homelessness are rare, brief, and non-recurring, and outcomes are equitable.

Built for Zero communities focus on achieving functional zero for target populations — like veterans or people experiencing chronic homelessness — as steps on the way to achieving functional zero for all. A study by the Urban Institute found that reaching functional zero for an initial group establishes the system and behaviors needed for communities to make progress for the subsequent populations.

Sustaining and scaling a reality where homelessness is rare and brief takes more than a single dedicated sector or organization. Community Solutions acts as an intermediary that supports communities and the broader conditions needed to help propel a field up and over a tipping point, a role that has been defined as a “field catalyst.” This includes bringing together partners to drive changes at the local, regional, state, and federal levels and partnering across sectors and countries to support the broader movement to end homelessness.

Partners in the movement to end homelessness


  • Backbone organizations for national movements to end homelessness


  • Core and strategic partners
  • Health system and public health partners
  • Field catalysts
  • Federal partners (Executive and Legislative branches)
  • Housing and homelessness organizations
  • National coalitions 
  • Philanthropic foundations
  • Data and technology companies


  • State housing agencies 
  • Health care systems
  • State and regional Human Service and Public Health agencies
  • Entities coordinating regional homelessness response 
  • State legislatures
  • Governor’s offices
  • State-level coalitions


  • Continuums of Care
  • City/county agencies
  • VA Medical Centers
  • Nonprofit service providers
  • Housing providers
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Housing authorities
  • Health systems
  • Municipal governments/leaders

Enabling Conditions: Priming conditions for any community to be able to solve homelessness

Homelessness has become widespread, recurring, and difficult for individuals to exit because of the ways systems, incentives, and policies are designed. In that context, much of the progress that communities are achieving is often in spite of the conditions upholding the status quo. 

Our aim is for any community committed to achieving functional zero to be bolstered by — rather than set back by — these conditions. As we learn alongside communities, we have focused our attention on eliminating key barriers that stand in the way of solving homelessness. With that knowledge, Community Solutions is harnessing learning and evaluation, policy advocacy, and communications to transform conditions surrounding data, governance, and accountability. 

We are pursuing systems-level change on the federal, state, and municipal levels to create the conditions for any community in the United States to create a lasting end to homelessness. Community Solutions is working to align funding, the way progress is measured, and operational structures so communities are set up to solve homelessness. We are also working with select cities, regions, and states to formalize their role in the homeless service system and explicitly orient their work around reduction goals. Our plan is to generate and amplify a broader set of knowledge, guidance, and strategies that can help the federal government, states, and localities end homelessness. 

Achieving and sustaining a reality where homelessness is rare and brief requires a clear understanding of the solutions as well as accountability for implementing them. The myth that homelessness is an intractable problem has prolonged human suffering and perpetuated the status quo for far too long. We need a new story that raises our collective expectations of what can and must be done. The reality is that homelessness is a solvable, systems problem, and communities are proving it. That truth must give rise to a new set of expectations and behaviors that produces solutions, everywhere. Community Solutions is driving campaigns to establish a new level of public and media accountability for a measurable and equitable end to homelessness. We measure success by tracking the national discourse around homelessness and how we are supporting shifts in the conversation and behavior. As part of that work, we are changing local and national discourse to center proof of what is possible, and the role we must all play.

Read more from the 2022 Learning and Impact Report