The third of a three-part post from the Zero 2016 campaign:

  • Part 1: A Housing System Built for Zero
  • Part 2: Assessment and the Role of By-Name Lists

Data Drives Results: Take Down Targets Help Communities Zero in on Ending Homelessness

By Matthew Doherty and Beth Sandor

In our shared mission to end homelessness, we know that data drives results. It drives the strategies and implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a framework for action for partners at every level of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. It drives tools and practices of the Zero: 2016 effort to help 71 communities do whatever it takes to end veteran homelessness this year and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. And it drives the day-to-day efforts of people across the country working tirelessly to assist each and every person experiencing homelessness in their communities to achieve their goals of permanent housing. Data is at the very core of creating a housing system built for zero and achieving an end to homelessness.

Today, Zero: 2016 communities are confirming and committing to one of the most integral pieces of data in their efforts to end homelessness – their veteran and chronic homelessness Take Down Targets. These Take Down Targets represent the total number of veterans experiencing homelessness who will need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year, and the total number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end chronic homelessness in these communities by the end of 2016.

A community’s Take Down Targets are determined by combining data from the Point in Time Count (PIT) and/or local by-name registries with multipliers derived from community and national data, which account for additional people who may become homeless and who may have not been counted during the PIT. Many Zero: 2016 communities are further refining these Take Down Targets using supplementary local data, historical trends and by-name information. As communities increasingly integrate a Common Assessment Tool (CAT) into day-to-day street outreach, local Take Down Targets will give way to actionable, real time, continuously updated by-name lists.

But setting Take Down Targets isn’t just about setting time bound goals – these targets also help communities identify any gaps in housing resources and opportunities and guide them in developing strategies for reducing or eliminating these gaps. Using customized Gap Analysis Tools provided by Zero: 2016, communities will be able to consider their Take Down Targets against available housing resources in their community, as determined by their Housing Inventory Count (HIC).

Some readers may have heard that the Opening Doors goal for ending chronic homelessness has been adjusted to 2017 – that’s true. Recognizing a need for more permanent supportive housing nationally, and that the most recent budget passed by Congress fell short of closing this gap, the President’s FY 2016 Budget calls for the investments needed nationally to end chronic homelessness before the end 2017. But it is also true that there are many communities that can achieve this goal ahead of the national timeline. Communities that can achieve the goal of ending chronic homelessness sooner should do so; they should do so on behalf of their neighbors experiencing chronic homelessness, but also to continue to create proof points that will help inspire national progress and momentum. Zero: 2016 communities are committed to leading the way by ending chronic homelessness in 2016.

The goal of a Take Down Target is to ensure each community is using data for improvement, benchmarking progress against the goal of getting to zero. While not perfect, these targets are intended to provide the most accurate information available on the number of people who need to be linked to permanent housing in order for a community to end chronic and veteran homelessness. It is this type of transparent, real-time, person-specific data that will help communities optimize resources, improve multi-agency coordination and accelerate housing placements, ultimately making the goal of ending veteran and chronic homelessness over the next two years a reality.

At the end of the day, we know that what gets measured gets done. By setting Take Down Targets and managing toward outcomes on a monthly basis, communities across the country are proving that ending homelessness is measurable and absolutely possible.

Matthew Doherty is the Interim Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Beth Sandor is the Director of Zero: 2016 for Community Solutions.


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