Rockford is the first community to effectively end homelessness among its veteran population as part of a national effort called Zero: 2016. Dozens of communities are participating in the campaign.
Beth Sandor, director of the Zero: 2016 Movement, said, “Rockford had to demonstrate that it was able to house more veterans every month than were homeless in the community.”
To date, Rockford has housed 73 veterans.
“You have eight veterans who are homeless in this community today," she said. "All of those veterans are in shelter. They are all known by name. They all have been offered permanent housing. And you have demonstrated over the last six months that you can house more than eight veterans every month.”
Sandor says it's now up to the region to be a model for others.
“I would invite you and ask you with us to be the leader in what is going to sustain that," she said, "because that’s where the real success is. A year from now, does it still look like one-tenth of one percent or less of your veterans are homeless, and you have really been able to maintain that end state.”
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey says reaching the goal meant making each case about the person, instead of the problem.
“When we make their stories part of our story and our life, and our work as a city," he said, "we are able to get people housed, we are able to manage that list, and we are able to make the connections that actually solve human problems.”
Local leaders say the next step is to combat chronic homelessness in the region.
About Zero: 2016
- Coordinated by Community Solutions with coaching from the Corporation for Supportive Housing
- Consists of 75 communities working to end Veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016
- Rockford was selected for Zero: 2016 through a competitive, national application process