As the country faces a historic pandemic and economic inequality, the crisis of homelessness continues to place our most vulnerable neighbors at risk. But in places like Detroit, Michigan, the community is coming together to stand up to the challenge of making sure everyone has a roof over their heads — starting with the crisis of veteran homelessness. What does that process look like?
“We come to the table together, we talk, we plan, and we solve for the impossible,” said Candace Morgan, Systems Transformation Advisor at Community Solutions.
Detroit is home to around 670,031 residents and one of 80+ communities in the Built for Zero movement by making a commitment to building a future where homelessness is rare and brief.
“Ending homelessness is an example of taking a village,” Morgan said. “It takes so many people to make the problem solvable.”
Detroit’s efforts to end veteran homelessness with the support of Rocket Mortgage was featured on the HISTORY® Channel.
Coming Together to Bring Veterans Home
By harnessing data-driven systems, housing, collaboration, and willpower, communities across the country are redefining what it takes to end homelessness. 13 cities and counties in Built for Zero have reached functional zero for chronic or veteran homelessness, with support from Rocket Mortgage.
We’re committed to ending homelessness because we’ve seen communities choose a future where homelessness is no longer an inevitable or permanent way of life. For Candace Morgan and Dave Foster, the commitment is also personal.
“No child should ever have to experience homelessness,” Morgan said, describing her deepest motivation for working on ending homelessness. After experiencing homelessness herself as a child, Candace was inspired to build a future where everyone has what she has now — a home.
Dave Foster, Community Solutions Principal of Real Estate, served on the NATO task force in Afghanistan and understands the challenges facing veterans after their service.
“It feels good to give back to my brothers and sisters in the military. Helping them overcome their challenges is something I take great pride in,” he said.
Homelessness can’t be ended without affordable housing and a data-driven system to make sure every single person gets housed. After joining Built for Zero, Detroit were able to collect and share quality data on homelessness in their community, and came to the realization that a large number of unhoused veterans were in transitional housing — needing permanent solutions instead.
“As long as we keep people in transitional housing, they will continue to be homeless. With a permanent home, they can become stable and independent,” said Dr. Chad Audi, CEO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.
The community began to convert transitional units into permanent housing and identifying vacant units for veterans exiting homelessness, powered by the collaboration between local organizations, Built for Zero, and Rocket Mortgage.
“There isn’t just one org that does it all. Collaboration is important to solve the problem. We might lack expertise or resources in one area where someone else has it and vice versa, so we can refer people to each other,” said Dr. Audi.
In 2020, Detroit saw a 33% reduction in veteran homelessness.
Staying at the Table
Detroit is not alone — they’re part of the national Built for Zero movement, building a more just and equitable future where homelessness is rare and brief. Rocket Mortgage is a critical partner on ending veteran homelessness, understanding that “focus on innovation is what we need to solve one the most entrenched problems of our time,” said Dave Foster.
“My advice to other communities is to never give up,” said Morgan. “Stay engaged. Stay positive. We have seen other communities achieve functional zero, so it’s not impossible. As long as we keep that attitude, we can reach functional zero — not just in Detroit, but in other communities.”