Homelessness is not a problem with a one-size-fits-all answer. Solutions to homelessness are complicated, and so news that a nonprofit program called Built for Zero has helped three communities end chronic homelessness might be met with some skepticism.
Another approach to ending chronic homelessness is known as “Housing First,” an approach that “offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.”
The approach, Cohen added, works, but not in all cases; it “must be adapted to local conditions, and must be followed by the provision of education, employment, and human services to the re-housed homeless residents.”
What’s the innovation behind Built for Zero? What the program seeks to add is the use of data to track people, which can be both helpful and disconcerting. Pilots of this particular program scheme have now been run in the smallish city of Abilene, Texas–home to close to 122,000–and two larger counties: Bergen County, New Jersey, home to 950,000; and Montgomery County, Maryland, with close to 1.06 million people.