On 11 and 12 February 2019, Perth was host to over 35 representatives from homelessness organisations around Australia for an Action Lab facilitated by USA-based Community Solutions.
Hosted by the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness and the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, the lab saw three Community Solutions representatives - Jake McGuire, Leslie Wise and Jennifer Padgett – facilitate an intensive, action-oriented workshop based on the Built for Zero initiative.
Community Solutions was founded by Rosanne Haggerty. “Rosanne had a bold idea,” explained Jake McGuire a Principal at Community Solutions. “She would find old derelict buildings all around New York and would then turn them into studio apartments. The Times Square Hotel today is still the largest supported housing place in America.”
Despite significant efforts Rosanne could not build apartments fast enough as homelessness and poverty continued to expand. So in 2011, the organisation began focusing on an approach they call Built for Zero. It supports participating communities to develop real time data on homelessness, optimising local housing resources, tracking progress against monthly goals, and scaling proven strategies. In their first four years, Community Solutions helped 25 times as many people as the team’s previous 20 years of work combined.
One of the defining components of Built for Zero is real-time data, collated in a By-Name List, which helps to make a coordinated response to rough sleeping and work towards ‘functional zero’.
“Functional Zero is best thought of as a point on a spectrum towards ending homelessness – or reaching Absolute Zero – in each context in which it is applied. The model allows/requires that communities determine their own plan with regard to how they define ending homelessness and the homeless population(s) upon which they focus” (Tually et al. 18)¹
This List helps you understand who in your community is experiencing homelessness at any given time. A strong By-Name List can be used to estimate future rates of homelessness, including inflow and outflow.
Developing a list is a challenge, but the Community Solutions team have refined their process for collecting and using the data in this way.
Teams of dedicated individuals and organisations from Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth worked throughout the two-day Action Lab to develop their workplan to progress a by-name list and related service coordination.
The next steps for the teams include establishing or expanding on systems that enable all organisations working to end homelessness in a designated geographic area to report into the same lists.
Community Solutions, along with all the participants of the lab, will continue to work together and support each other in order to make progress on the Built for Zero strategies.
At the end of the Action Lab, the Community Solutions team provided a debrief and presentation at an evening reception for anyone interested in the Built for Zero concept.
Gaye McMath, Deputy Chair Commissioner at the City of Perth opened the presentation by outlining her, and the commissioners support for the work being done.
“What I can do is pledge to the people here in the room from Perth, that the three commissioners are absolutely committed to supporting you and making a step change difference in how we are addressing homelessness in the City. Why? It’s the right thing to do,” Ms McMath said .
Thanks to the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, Community Solutions, and the participating organisations of the Action Lab for making this happen.
The Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness is supported by Lotterywest.