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Talking about functional zero

October 9, 2022

What is functional zero?

  • Functional zero is a dynamic milestone that indicates a community is continuously rendering homelessness rare overall and brief when it occurs, for a population.

  • Functional zero does not mean nobody is experiencing homelessness, or that no one will experience homelessness. It does mean that a community has driven that number down toward zero, and is keeping it below the community’s capacity to ensure positive exits from homelessness.

  • Imagine if the homeless system operated like a well-functioning hospital. That hospital will not necessarily prevent people from ever becoming sick. But it will ensure people are triaged appropriately, promptly receive the services they need, and address the illness, preventing further harm.

How is functional zero calculated for specific populations?

  • Functional zero for veteran homelessness: A community has ended veteran homelessness when the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is less than the number of veterans a community has proven it can house in a month, with a minimum threshold of 3.

  • Functional zero for chronic homelessness: A community has ended chronic homelessness when the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness is zero, or if not zero, than either 3 or .1% of the total number of individuals reported in the most recent point-in-time count, whichever is greater.
  • Functional zero for all populations (More details on the definition are here)
    • Rare. The number of people experiencing homelessness across all populations must consistently remain below a level, known as their functional zero threshold.
    • Brief. When homelessness does occur, it must be an experience that quickly passes. Communities at functional zero ensure that the average length of time from identification to move-in is 45 days or less.
    • Nonrecurring. Homelessness should be resolved, for good. No more than 5% of exits should result in a return to homelessness within two years of the system’s service or support.
    • Equitable. Communities must close racial and ethnic disproportionality in housing placements, return to homelessness, and the average length of time from identification to housing.


You can access our Built for Zero media kit at this link.