Homelessness in the US is a $12 billion industry that doesn’t work. It affects an estimated 1.5 million people each year in the US alone, the majority of whom are people of color. Yet Community Solutions’ growing network of Built for Zero communities is proving it is a solvable problem. Thirteen US communities have ended chronic or veteran homelessness to date using our rigorous, data driven approach informed by public health breakthroughs. With 100&Change, 75 communities, including five of the country’s largest, will end homelessness for some or all populations by 2025. They will have created reliable and equitable local housing systems that prevent and quickly end homelessness for historically marginalized people. This overwhelming shift will establish new standards for communities’ efforts and new expectations of leaders for results. Our network and approach will be primed for expansion throughout the US and internationally to support this transformation.
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Homeless populations under COVID-19 struggle from lack of safe spaces to isolate, elevated risks of infection, hospitalization and death due to underlying health risks, racial disparity and age, unmet need for testing, and basic needs going unmet as local services have been disrupted by the pandemic. The economic crisis has placed many more Americans at risk of homelessness without additional federal assistance. Communities of color have always carried the heaviest and deadliest burdens of our systemic failures, including homelessness, and are being forced to do so again. Community Solutions is prioritizing the safety of those experiencing homelessness, the safety of frontline staff, and protecting local healthcare systems by working with federal and local public health agencies to prioritize homelessness in their emergency and long term responses, assisting communities in securing quarantine and isolation space for the most vulnerable and in moving people directly into stable housing, incorporating COVID-19 response work into ongoing coaching and data tracking support, accelerating homelessness prevention efforts, and accelerating work internationally. In order to successfully protect the most vulnerable communities, this work includes a focus on improving outcomes for people of color.
Racial and Ethnic Injustice Response
Because homelessness reflects and is driven by racial bias, ending homelessness requires racial equity to be at the center of solutions. We pursue this internally at Community Solutions and through our Built for Zero network. Internally, Community Solutions aims for people of color to comprise 50% of our team at all levels. We have dedicated a position to advance our goals and have a Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) of staff focused on: -- Increasing the diversity of our team through a structured interview process; rigorous tracking of diversity at each stage of our hiring process, and supporting hiring managers in increasing the diversity of their candidate pools. -- Recommending practices to support people of color in thriving personally and professionally, including a Bias Incident Reporting Tool and response guidelines, and supporting attendance at conferences and trainings. -- Engaging experts to lead discussions on race and identity through a monthly webinar or in-person trainings. -- Increasing purchasing from Minority & Women Owned Businesses. Through Built for Zero, we are: -- Developing and embedding a clear measurement framework for the network for what it means to have a racially equitable housing system. -- Testing ways to use qualitative data from people of color with lived experience of homelessness for systems improvement. Involving national leaders, including Biased author Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt, to advise on ways to measure and eliminate racial bias in homelessness response systems. -- Identifying an academic research partner to monitor efforts and provide actionable guidance to communities on eliminating racial bias in housing systems.