Ending Veteran Homelessness, or Functional Zero?

Ending Veteran Homelessness, or Functional Zero?

June 26, 2015
Written by the NVTAC Blogger

Last month it was announced that another city “effectively ended veteran homelessness,” according to its Mayor. This builds on the momentum toward the goal of ending veteran homelessness by December 31, 2015. Department of Labor Secretary, Thomas E. Perez reflected on the announcement saying, “Homeless veterans face complex challenges, and addressing them requires the federal government, local leadership, funders and non-profits to join forces to provide comprehensive solutions. Houston’s achievement illustrates what we can accomplish when we break down silos and work together toward common goals. We look forward to working with the Houston region to further prevent and reduce homelessness through expanded access to housing and job training opportunities.”

Announcements such as these may leave people wondering whether ending veteran homelessness literally means that no veteran is, or ever will be, homeless. Does it mean we finally have the tools, service coordination, housing assistance, and jobs in place, as well as a strategy to house our currently homeless veterans and to rapidly rehouse any veteran that falls into homelessness? To answer these questions, let’s take a closer look at what it means for veteran homelessness to be “functional zero,” as opposed to “zero.”

A colleague recently told me, “. . . functional zero isn’t the same as zero.” So, what is functional zero? The term functional zero means that “At any point in time, the number of veterans experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness will be no greater than the current monthly housing placement rate for veterans experiencing homelessness. There is the expectation that communities will make every effort to house remaining veterans as quickly as possible.”[1] “Zero” means that no veterans are experiencing homelessness. Absolute zero homelessness is unlikely, because as economic events evolve and personal circumstances change, housing instability is inevitable for some veterans.

Operationally, functional zero means that each community knows by name the currently homeless veterans in the community and individualizes a housing plan and placement for those veterans; and the community commits to provide permanent housing to any veteran falling into homelessness within 30 days of becoming homeless. Just how many communities will achieve functional zero by the end of the year is not known. Beyond 2015, we all hope no veteran will have to sleep on the street. There would be temporary shelter, a direct path to a permanent home and the income to sustain it.

Our progress has been excellent and we are tenacious in our efforts to achieve the goal! The USICH has published criteria by which your community can measure whether the necessary infrastructure is in place, along with a list of questions your community can ask itself to assess whether your community has achieved the goal of ending veteran homelessness.

Are we on track to end veteran homelessness? We invite blog readers to share their understanding of ending veteran homelessness, as well as their ideas about how to reach this goal.

Jannah Umar is currently a Program Assistant at Advocates for Human Potential, residing in Albany, NY. She acts as the Blog Moderator, for The NVTAC Blog, and welcomes all questions, comments or concerns that you may have regarding this blog.

Preparation of this item was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment Training Service under cooperative agreement HV25269-14-75-5-25. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the DOL, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

The National Veterans Technical Assistance Center (NVTAC) is a partnership among Advocates for Human Potential (AHP), the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL-VETS). Funded under a cooperative agreement for three years, the NVTAC supports the mission of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) and its stakeholders. AHP engaged additional assistance from the Atlas Research Inc., Rutgers University, and Relyon Solutions. NCHV is assisted by Dartmouth College and Easter Seals.

For more information contact nvtac@ahpnet.com.

[1] See http://cmtysolutions.org/sites/default/files/final_zero_2016_metrics.pdf