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Fremont reaches functional zero for veteran homelessness

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Alex Proimos / CC BY 2.0

FREMONT, Colo. (KRDO) -- Thursday, Fremont, Colorado has been certified by a national nonprofit for functionally ending veteran homelessness. It is just the 12th community in the country to achieve functional zero for veteran homelessness, a dynamic measure for ending veteran homelessness. The community will be focused on sustaining this reality and expanding these results to other populations. 

Reaching functional zero for veteran homelessness means that fewer veterans are experiencing homelessness than can be housed in a month. This certification comes from Built for Zero, a national initiative of more than 80 cities and counties across the country working to measurably end homelessness, led by the nonprofit Community Solutions. 

This is the achievement of a community-wide effort, indicating that the community has created a data-driven system that can keep homelessness rare and brief when it occurs. A team of seven partners worked together to achieve this milestone, including Solvista Health, Starpoint, Fremont County Department of Human Services, Fremont County Veteran Service Officer, Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government Housing Authority, the City of Canon City and Loaves and Fishes Ministries. The local team — as well as the Built for Zero work across the state of Colorado — is also supported by Kaiser Permanente.

“Creating a Built for Zero Team in Fremont County has been a complete game-changer in effectively addressing what has been a growing local homeless population,” said Ashley Smith, Canon City Mayor. “One of the major shifts was realizing there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but by creating a by-name list, the Built for Zero team could tailor a solution for each homeless person and household. With steadfast commitment our local Built for Zero team has worked wonders in giving a hand up for our homeless to reconnect to family, start choosing better life choices, and re-enter society with housing, stability, and work. There is still a lot of work to do, but with community support and the continued dedication of a well-tailored team, we will continue to see homelessness in Fremont County decrease.”  

“This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration across the community to work together to identify each veteran in need of shelter and support,” said DeeDee Clement, Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes Ministries. “Our work isn’t done. We understand it will be critical for us to continue working together to protect zero — and continue working toward a future where homelessness is rare and brief for all.” 

The coalition of partners worked together to ensure a data-driven coordinated system is in place to help veterans exit homelessness, particularly critical in the midst of a pandemic for a population at high risk of infection, complication, and even death. 

"This milestone brings Colorado one step closer to a future where homelessness is rare and brief, and no one gets left behind. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs is proud to work with our federal partners, the community team in Fremont, and our Built for Zero partners including Kaiser Permanente, Community Solutions and the Colorado Health Foundation, to support and sustain Fremont’s success,” said Rick M. Garcia, Executive Director, Department of Local Affairs. “We are hopeful that this achievement will inspire other communities to adopt a similar approach and build on these efforts for all those experiencing chronic homelessness whether they are adults, young adults, families, or seniors.”

“We are extremely proud of the local Built for Zero Improvement team’s accomplishment of reaching the functional zero milestone in the placement of homeless veterans in our community,” said Marty Peek, Fremont County Veteran Service Officer.

Functional zero is a dynamic milestone proving that fewer people are experiencing homelessness than can be routinely housed, demonstrating need does not exceed system capacity. 

Reaching functional zero for ending veteran homelessness does not mean that the region’s veterans are no longer facing challenges that may cause them to become homeless. Rather, it means that a coordinated system of care has been established that connects homeless veterans to housing and services, effectively ending their homeless status soon after they’ve been identified. The system of care has to be maintained and continually fine-tuned to remain effective. 

“We are proud to announce that the Fremont, Colorado community has joined the vanguard of communities to reach functional zero for veteran homelessness,” said Habiba Rotter, Improvement Advisor at Built for Zero. “This incredible team has demonstrated that half the work of ending homelessness is believing that it is possible. The other half is committing to focusing on the opportunities for each and every client, rather than focusing on barriers. With persistence and dedication, they have shown all of us what can and must be done."

To achieve functional zero, the Fremont County team focused on:

  • Using real-time quality data. The community has a by-name list, which includes each veteran experiencing homelessness by name and provides real-time insights into their needs.
  • Creating strong collaborations. Partners that serve veterans came together around the shared goal, including nonprofit organizations, and different agencies.
  • Targeting interventions based on real-time data. Using the by-name list, the community targeted solutions in a way that maximized the community’s resources.
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