In lieu of the planned in-person Learning Session in Washington, D.C, the first ever Built for Zero Virtual Learning Session on April 16, 2020, brought together several hundred attendees from our Built for Zero Communities, along with four federal partners from HUD, VA, and USICH and Community Solutions and Built for Zero staff members for an inspiring and grounding Zoom call.
With communities across the country in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the session also was intended to reflect on the amazing work happening across BFZ communities to respond to COVID-19, remembering that we’re in this together and will only get through this together, reinforce ways BFZ is working to support and together look to a hopeful future without homelessness.
Ending homelessness is a public health response, now more than ever
Keeping those experiencing homelessness and front-line staff safe and alive is the current and continued urgent response to the pandemic. But during this Virtual Learning session, Built for Zero leaders also discussed what is needed as the next level of improvement. We want to break open new thinking about the ways ending homelessness can be seen and enacted as a public health response, connecting with public health agencies locally, nationally, and globally to make the full elimination of homelessness a public health priority.
Candace Morgan, Built for Zero Transformer
“We’re already shift-makers, first responders, and life-savers…we will overcome. We will continue what we’ve been doing for so long.”
Racial equity continues to be an objective for the Built for Zero Collaborative, as we are committed to work with our communities to create an end to homelessness leaving no one behind. “At the same moment we are being asked to stay inside, we know the people experiencing homelessness will remain on the margins of response; they will have nowhere to shelter,” said Nate French, Built for Zero Portfolio Lead. “Because of the overrepresentation of Black and Native Americans in this space, this is also an issue of equity, both inside the homelessness space and outside,” he continued.
In the coming weeks and months, we want to utilize our collective voice to make big asks for the things we need to make strides towards the goal of ending homelessness and protecting the most vulnerable, while also developing a comprehensive policy and communications program to make ending homelessness a matter of preserving the nation’s health.
As Mary Simons, Built for Zero leader from Gulf Coast/Gulfport, Miss., said, “Everyone is about ‘get people inside.’ We know that inside is permanent housing. It doesn’t matter what our partners’ why may be; our why is that it’s the right thing to do.”
We have heard the continued struggles your communities have been experiencing, like countering the absence of personal protective equipment with creative ways to keep your staff safe. Built for Zero wants to continue supporting your efforts to keep people safe and alive, with suppliers for bulk orders of surgical masks, shared examples of community leadership structures, and curating quality resources for the COVID-19 crisis. See additional resources below.