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West Virginia Selected to Join National Campaign to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness

West Virginia has been selected, along with 68 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 Beckley, Charleston, Clarksburg, Huntington, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg, in collaboration with the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (WVCEH), 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.

West Virginia 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 eight WV communities are exploring the integration 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 WVCEH is very excited for these eight communities from around the state to come together to accomplish the same goal: ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016,” said WVCEH Project Specialist, Rachael Coen.

“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 released the results of the 2014 Homeless Point-­‐in-­‐Time 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 report showed that on a single night in January, West Virginia had 30 veterans and 178 people experiencing chronic homelessness on its streets. Those numbers represent a 54% decrease in veteran homelessness and a 64% increase in chronic homelessness since 2011. Local officials in the target communities in West Virginia said they are committed to reducing those numbers to zero.

The report 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 69 communities selected for Zero: 2016 represent 31 different states and the District of Columbia. Among them are 50 communities who also participated in the 100,000 Homes Campaign and 19 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.

WVCEH is the non-­‐profit, state advocacy body for issues of homelessness in West Virginia and also serves as the Collaborative Applicant for the Balance of State Continuum of Care. Our work is to end homelessness in our state. We realize this is a tall order, but we view it as a completely possible and realistic task. At the Coalition,  we focus on communities. Communities can take the responsibility of ending the homelessness of their neighbors. We provide the tools to communities with strategies to do so. We bind service providers, state agencies, businesses, and concerned people together to work toward solutions to end homelessness. We have learned through the 100,000 Homes Campaign that we must commit ourselves to the integration of systems and resources to efficiently provide housing and services. We must commit ourselves to the prioritization and housing of persons most likely to die on the street. Zero: 2016 gives us the tools to accomplish this and we now have the commitment throughout West Virginia.

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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Local Media Point of Contact: Rachael Coen rachaelcoen@wvceh.org 304.203.7787

Community Solutions National Contact: Jake Maguire  jmaguire@cmtysolutions.org 347.266.0175

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