ABILENE, Texas (PRESS RELEASE) — The City of Abilene has become the fourth community in the country to be certified for reaching functional zero for chronic homelessness, a gold standard for serving the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in a community.
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 have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly over the last 3 years — while living with a disability.
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.
Katherine Bisson, Executive Director at Abilene Hope Haven, said: “Today’s announcement of reaching functional zero celebrates a community effort to ensure long-lasting homelessness is rare overall, and quickly resolved when it is identified. This does not mean that our community will never see another homeless neighbor again. But what this accomplishment does mean is that we have the system of support that can ensure our most vulnerable community members have a place to call home. We know that this milestone is just one step on a longer journey to better serve all of our neighbors. We will use this momentum to improve our support for youth and families as we work toward solving homelessness for everyone in Abilene.”
WORKING TOWARD SOLVING HOMELESSNESS FOR ALL
Abilene first reached the threshold for functional zero for chronic homelessness in November 2019. In order to be certified, it must maintain that reality. Led by Abilene Hope Haven, Inc., the local Built for Zero team unified the efforts of key agencies working locally to end homelessness.
“Abilene demonstrated that a community can successfully address homelessness when the right players come together with a shared goal. This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of multiple organizations working together and the use of page 2real-time data to identify each chronically homeless person in need of shelter and support,”said Mayor Anthony Williams. “This milestone is just one step on a longer journey and we understand it will be critical for us to continue working together to maintain and continue our progress.”
As part of Built for Zero, Abilene changed how its homeless response system works by adopting the core elements of the Built for Zero methodology. This includes:
●Building a unified regional team, or a “command center,” around a shared goal of getting to functional zero.
●Using real-time, person-specific data to know every person experiencing chronic homelessness or veteran experiencing homelessness by name and target efforts and resources accordingly.
“By reaching functional zero for chronic and veteran homelessness, Abilene demonstrated that it is on the leading edge of the national movement to measurably end homelessness,”said Habiba Rotter, Built for Zero Improvement Advisor. “Harnessing the power of data,this community created a new reality that ensures that residents experiencing chronic homelessness are known by-name, in real time, and supported by a system designed to get to zero homelessness.”