What It Means To End Homelessness

Aug 5, 2016

by David Levine, President/CEO

This recent National Alliance to End Homelessness blog article speaks to ending homelessness.  The author asks one question:  what does it mean to end chronic homelessness?

In 2005, the federal government set a goal of ending chronic homelessness. What was never determined by the government was the best measure of that goal.

From the beginning, it was clear that the goal could not be  “literal zero,” where there are zero chronically homeless persons in a community.  Rather, the goal recognizes that some chronically homeless persons will be resistant to housing. They will never be convinced to move into housing or, at the least, an overnight shelter.  Also, given that many live in camps or other faraway places, some homeless persons can never be reached or contacted about housing.

This past week, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness — comprising 19 federal member agencies — defined the end-of-homelessness goal. It said that the goal is:  “… when there are no chronically homeless individuals OR the benchmark for municipalities with fewer than 3,000 individuals in their 2016 Point-in-Time Count (PIT) would be no more than three people experiencing chronic homelessness, maintained for no less than 90 days.”

This goal applies to Fairfax County, where the number of chronic homeless individuals in the 2016 PIT is about 1,059 individuals.  It would be ideal to reach only three chronically homeless in our county of over one million residents.

However it is measured, that would be quite an achievement — and the accomplishment of a worthwhile goal.