Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dallas Area Selected to Join National Campaign to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness

Dallas, TexasThe Dallas area Continuum of Care (serving Dallas and Collin Counties) has been selected, along with 66 other U.S. communities, to participate in Zero: 2016, a national campaign to end veteran and chronic homelessness in the next two years. The Campaign is being spearheaded by Community Solutions, a national non-profit based in New York City. The organization said it would work intensively with the Dallas Continuum of Care to meet the federal goals set by President Obama to end veteran homelessness by Dec. 2015 and chronic homelessness by Dec. 2016. The initiative is a rigorous follow-on to the group’s successful 100,000 Homes Campaign, which announced in June that it had helped communities house 105,000 chronically homeless Americans in under four years.

The Dallas area Continuum of Care was selected for Zero: 2016 through a competitive, national application process. The decision to apply was made jointly by local public housing authority, Veterans Affairs, non-profit and Continuum of Care leaders. The initiative will formally launch in January of 2015 during the national 2015 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, during which local volunteers will hit area streets and shelters to enumerate the local homeless population. The Dallas area Continuum of Care is exploring the integration of an evidence-based survey into that count to identify all its homeless residents by name and determine the best available resources and housing options to end their homelessness.

“The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Continuum of Care is excited about this opportunity to utilize nationally recognized best practices to help end Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in Dallas and surrounding communities.  We can reach this goal. Locally Zero: 2016 will change lives and allow agencies to come together to coordinate and prioritize access for the most needy,” said Traswell C. Livingston III, Chair of the Dallas area Continuum of Care, MDHA board member, and Vice President and COO of AIDS Services of Dallas.

“Chronic and Veteran homelessness are urgent, solvable problems,” said Zero: 2016 Director, Beth Sandor. “These communities represent a potential tipping point. If they can show that getting to zero is possible, we think it will become untenable for other communities not to follow suit. Zero: 2016 is about bringing shared accountability to this work. Participants are making a public commitment to get to zero on time, and they are going to use that commitment to drive measurable progress.”

Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the results of the 2014 Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, which shows that homelessness continues to decline across virtually all major categories, including chronic homelessness. Veteran homelessness was singled out by the report for its particularly steep decline-- more than 30 percent in the last four years.

The Dallas area PIT Count report showed that on a single night in January 2014, Dallas had 42 veterans living on the streets, in automobiles or in abandoned buildings.  Veterans’ homelessness decreased from the previous year from 18% to 13% of the overall homeless population.   A total of 413 people were determined chronically homeless on the night of the PIT Count. Chronic homelessness continues to decrease, as permanent supportive housing increases, resulting in a 65% decrease since 2004.  Local officials said they are committed to reducing the veteran and chronic numbers to zero.

The report on the national results also showed that communities selected to join Zero: 2016 account for a combined 31,669 chronically homeless Americans and 16,218 homeless veterans. Community Solutions said it estimates an overlap of 10,000-12,000 between these two populations.

Opening Doors, the federal plan to end homelessness in America, calls for communities to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and to end chronic homelessness one year later.

The 67 communities selected for Zero: 2016 represent 30 different states and the District of Columbia. Among them are 51 communities who also participated in the 100,000 Homes Campaign and 16 new communities. Combined, the group represents the joint, public commitment of 234 housing authorities, local government entities, non-profit organizations, and community agencies.

Sandor said Community Solutions would work with communities to accelerate their housing efforts through four focus areas: closing the research-to-practice gap, real-time data and performance management, local systems redesign, and local team and leadership development. Community Solutions will provide hands-on coaching and data tools, and will curate a national peer-to-peer learning network to accelerate innovation across communities.

Sandor added that communities would focus narrowly on data and performance management for the first 90 days of the initiative with a goal of developing clear targets for the total number of housing placements needed locally to end chronic and veteran homelessness on the federal timetable. This number will consider projected inflow and other key factors. Each community will use this number to determine the monthly housing placement rate it will need to meet in order to succeed.

Communities will learn real-time performance improvement techniques drawn from healthcare, manufacturing and other sectors to reach these ambitious monthly goals.

“To make rapid progress, communities will need to measure the size and needs of their homeless populations in real time and use monthly data to improve their housing performance,” added Sandor. “You can’t solve a problem that you only measure once a year.”

Zero: 2016 will dovetail with other large-scale initiatives working to help communities end homelessness, including the 25 Cities Initiative, led by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Mayor’s Challenge to End Homelessness, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Many communities selected to join Zero: 2016 are also participating in one or both of these initiatives, and Community Solutions has coordinated extensively with VA and other federal agencies to ensure that all three initiatives complement each other as well as possible.

In addition to the Mayor’s Challenge to End Homelessness and Zero: 2016 initiatives, the Dallas area Continuum of Care has begun implementing a “Housing First” model for permanent supportive housing. It is also scheduled to deploy a community wide coordinated assessment system for the homeless in the next few months.  All of these initiatives are interrelated and when integrated will allow more efficient and effective use of resources within the community.  Investment in these initiatives will not only end homelessness but reduce the cost along the way, while producing self-sufficient citizens within the community.

MDHA is an association of organizations devoted to ending homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties, by putting people into homes. It facilitates over $16,750,000 of annual federal funding, coordinates services, and drives improvement in more than 45 different transitional housing (TH), rapid rehousing (RRH), and permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs. Under U.S. Law, HUD does not fund service providers independently, rather mandates that they be funded through local Continuum of Care organizations, led by lead agencies, which coordinate all facets of the grant application process. MDHA is the lead agency for the Dallas area Continuum of Care, which serves Dallas and Collin Counties.
Community Solutions is a national non-profit dedicated to helping communities solve the complex social problems facing their most vulnerable residents. The organization’s work applies design thinking, quality improvement and a host of other cross-sector disciplines to issues like homelessness, unemployment, and public health. Zero: 2016 is a rigorous follow-on to the organization’s successful 100,000 Homes Campaign designed to help a select group of communities end chronic and veteran homelessness in the next two years. The initiative will formally launch in January 2015.

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