Partners Ending Homelessness facilitates the Continuum of Care in implementing initiatives that will change homelessness from a destination to a process.
Built for Zero Initiative (formerly “Zero: 2016)
Partners Ending Homelessness (PEH) and the Guilford County Continuum of Care (CoC) were selected for Zero: 2016 participation beginning in January 2015. Zero: 2016/Built for Zero is a rigorous national change effort designed to help a committed group of 75 U.S. communities end veteran homelessness by December 2015 and chronic homelessness by December 2016. Community Solutions, the national organizer, supports participants in optimizing local resources, tracking progress, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies.
By the end of 2015, it was apparent that PEH would not meet the veteran goal on time. Guilford County developed a “gold-standard by name list” and housed approximately the initial number of veterans within the first nine months of 2015. Yet, two factors had not been considered on the national level in the original planning strategy:
- The influx of veterans to our program from other areas through VA referrals and a generally high level of transience
- The impact of the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program. While all involved want vets to receive the services they need, those in GPD situations are still considered homeless. Vets can remain in the GPD program for up to two years.
As a result, only five of 75 Built for Zero communities throughout the U.S. have met this goal to date.
Success in the area of chronic homelessness has shown more favorable results. Working through the Housing First Initiative, PEH and our partner agencies have housed nearly 90 chronically homeless individuals; approximately 30 remain. We believe we can meet this goal by the target date of December 31, 2016. Built for Zero organizers have extended the deadlines for both veterans and chronically homeless.
Initiatives Going Forward
While continuing to be committed to achieving the Built for Zero goals of ending homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless populations, PEH is looking ahead to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) further goals. These goals, as stated in the amended Opening Doors federal strategy, are to prevent and end homelessness for families with children and youth by 2020.
To do so will require the development of additional by name lists. More important is the training of provider staff and caseworkers in how to best meet the particular housing and other needs of these distinctive groups. As HUD’s collaborative applicant and CoC lead agency, PEH is also responsible for federal and state data reporting and using data to accurately measure the impact of local programs and drive strategic decisions (including funding).
The overall goals to bring veteran homelessness to functional zero and to end chronic homelessness according to the federal definition will continue. The CoC will begin focus on the process of ending homelessness for families with children and unaccompanied youth by December 31, 2020.
These goals require four specific activities:
- Improvements to Continuum of Care (CoC) governance
- Training for staff and/or caseworkers
- Development and maintenance of “by name lists” for the target groups
- Generating community awareness of the new coordinated intake system
In order to best carry out the mission to lead a strong and stable system of care to end homelessness in Guilford County, in 2017 PEH underwent a strategic evolution, in order to align the CoC more closely with HUD guidance and overall homeless service system best practices. PEH led the effort to change the CoC governance structure, separating and re-defining the roles of PEH and the CoC. PEH remained the lead agency and collaborative applicant while management of the CoC became more peer-driven.
Training for staff and caseworkers in the PEH Academy and informal training sessions allows them to gain knowledge of various best practices then put that knowledge to use thereby generating more efficient system performance–housing more clients more rapidly.
By Name Lists
A systematic, systemic process is the only way to end homelessness. Developing a by name list for the target population, ranked by level of need, is the first step. The groups of unaccompanied youth and families with children are the next groups targeted by HUD in the process of ending homelessness.
Coordinated Intake (also known as Coordinated Assessment/Coordinated Entry and CA/CE) prioritizes entry into the system, improves efficiencies, and helps to limit duplication of services. Implementing this person-centered process is a key component toward shifting our entire system to a Housing First approach. Success hinges on system-wide buy-in and compliance. Additional factors include the ability to obtain and analyze accurate, high quality, real-time data. PEH is committed to this implementation and to using accurate data to inform system-wide decision-making, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our system, and maintaining a culture of accountability and transparency in our effort to end homelessness in Guilford County. More effective organizational and system-wide structure is the result.