By Ryan Stanton
ANN ARBOR, MI - Since launching an ambitious campaign to address homelessness in January 2015, organizations in Washtenaw County have housed 269 veterans and 230 chronically homeless individuals.
Those figures exceed the county's initial goals for the Zero:2016 campaign, which was slated to end next month.
County officials announced this week the effort is going to continue and is being renamed "Built for Zero," reflecting the progress made to build sustainable systems to end veteran and chronic homelessness for good.
Washtenaw County is among dozens of communities nationwide working to end chronic and veteran homelessness through the national Zero:2016 campaign.
According to Community Solutions, the national nonprofit coordinating the effort, participating communities have collectively housed more than 60,000 homeless people since January 2015, five communities have ended veteran homelessness, and two have ended chronic homelessness.
Washtenaw County has received the Michigan Housing Development Authority's "Ending Veteran Homelessness" award for reducing veteran homelessness.
"Ending homelessness requires a system that is responsive and flexible," Andrea Plevek, director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, said in a statement. "Over the past two years, our community has incorporated principles of continuous improvement and produced incredible housing outcomes for both veterans and people experiencing chronic homelessness. And while we still have work to do, we know we can make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Washtenaw County."
As part of Zero:2016, communities are working together to build real-time, by-name lists of individuals experiencing homelessness, use survey tools to identify the best housing options for different individuals, integrate local housing and service agencies into a single coordinated system, and recruit landlords to increase the pool of available apartments.
The Washtenaw County Continuum of Care coordinates community-based efforts to end homelessness and has implemented those action steps, resulting in addressing the needs of homeless individuals faster and more effectively, according to the Office of Community and Economic Development.