Defining what it means to end chronic homelessness – we now have a clear goal

The goal to end chronic homelessness set by the federal government in 2005 was considered very ambitious. Today, we are excited to share that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and its 19 federal member agencies released criteria and a benchmark that define what ending chronic homelessness should look like. Being at a point where we are able to define what it means to end chronic homelessness is exciting — it means we have made significant strides and now need to plan an end game.

Why declare an end?

It’s important to set high goals and celebrate them when they are reached. Declaring an end to chronic homelessness on a local level demonstrates to that community and the rest of the country that investments in permanent supportive housing, a housing first approach, and community-based planning and implementation work.

How is an end being defined?

It may seem like defining an end to chronic homelessness should just be when there are zero chronically homeless persons in a community. However, there are many ways in which getting to a literal zero can be difficult as people move around a lot, they can be resistant to housing, and new people may be identified at any time from outreach.

So if not zero, then what? Given the circumstances mentioned above, the new criteria and benchmark published by USICH provides some leeway but not too much that communities don’t have to continually make a concerted effort to end and maintain an end to chronic homelessness. It comes down to a single benchmark:

The point at which Continuums of Care (CoC) have ended homelessness is when there are NO chronically homeless individuals OR “the number of individuals that continue to experience chronic homelessness does not exceed 0.1% of the total number of individuals reported in the most recent Point-in-Time count, or 3 persons, whichever is greater”

This may not be a true zero but it’s close. We can use Los Angeles, the continuum of care with the greatest number of chronically homeless persons, as an example. Based on their 2016 point in time count of individuals, LA could declare an end to chronic homelessness when they can report no more than 38 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and maintain this level for longer than 90 days.

The benchmark for CoCs with fewer than 3,000 individuals in their 2016 PIT count would be no more than three people experiencing chronic homelessness, maintained for no less than 90 days.

How do communities get there?

USICH also published criteria along with the benchmark for how to accomplish this goal:

  • Comprehensive outreach
  • Immediate access to temporary accommodations
  • A Housing First orientation
  • A swift and efficient way to house people quickly
  • A system in place to do all of this work and prevent chronic homelessness in the first place

These criteria are critical and coupled with the need to increase resources for permanent housing and supportive services will get the job done.

What’s next?

Once communities have declared an end to chronic homelessness it will be important to keep systems in place to maintain an end to chronic homelessness indefinitely.

Read the full Criteria and Benchmark for Achieving the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness.