Built for Zero Starter Kit

Through our work with 140 communities in the US, Community Solutions has created and assembled resources that communities have effectively used to improve in these foundational areas and ultimately drive reductions in local homeless populations and in some cases ended homelessness for one population or more. Our hope is that you will be able to use these resources to learn about the Built for Zero model and identify areas for improvement in your own systems.

This guide is a high-level overview of Built for Zero’s community theory of change and a collection of resources and tools that have been important to Built for Communities’ success in reducing homelessness. We’ve designed this resource as a ‘get started quick’ guide to places where we think you can get started, right now, on making improvements in your system. This is not a comprehensive guide to the Built for Zero model nor a comprehensive list of all of the tools that Built for Zero communities use in their work to end homelessness.

The core of the Built for Zero (BFZ) model rests on building an effective and resilient homeless prevention and response system that catalyzes broader ecosystem changes that are necessary to sustain and scale results.

Communities must first build this effective and resilient system by developing foundations for system improvement—shared commitment, system capacity and leadership, and implementation, accountability, and data infrastructure.

Along with developing these foundations, communities also need to establish new ways of working collectively, inclusively, and equitably across partners within the system and in adjacent sectors with the goal of deepening relationships and building trust.

Through ongoing data use, learning, and improvement, communities test new solutions to see what works and what needs to be refined with the goal of developing system improvement and learning mindsets in the partnership.

These foundations and new ways of working position a community to implement multiple strategies to equitably achieve significant reductions in the number of people experiencing homelessness and eventually, an end to homelessness for everyone. These strategies include preventing homelessness from occurring; housing those currently experiencing homelessness and ensuring those housed through the system can stay in their homes.

To build an enabling environment to sustain these reductions, a community also strives to influence the broader system conditions that enable or erect barriers to change. Through policy, narrative change, resource mobilization and cross-sector collaboration, the community works to clear the path to sustainably and equitably end homelessness.

If you feel ready to get started improving your system with the Built for Zero model, our recommendation is for senior level leadership to review this entire document, and then assemble and delegate aspects of this work to collaborative teams in their community. We’ve provided guidance in each section on who we recommend to include in the conversation for each change area.

If you have any questions about these resources, please reach out to bfznetwork@community.solutions.

Set foundations for change

New ways of working

  • Coordinated and collaborative action work in partnership and collaboration
  • Coordinate and align processes
  • Data-informed practice and continuous system improvement
  • Equitable and person-centered approach