PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A national movement is asking the homeless directly what resources they need to get off of the streets. But even supporters of the Built for Zero movement say there are ways it should improve.
Built for Zero brings community partners together to pool information from those living on the streets. They take this information to help identify trends in that community and disseminate resources accordingly.
The director of Built for Zero, Beth Sandor, says those investments should ultimately help reduce the number of homeless over time.
“Are we moving the needle? Are there fewer people experiencing homelessness this month than last month? That is what all of our programs and investments should be adding up to,” said Sandor.
City Commissioner Dan Ryan says the goal of the program in Portland is to help people move into housing.
Portland, Gresham and Multnomah County joined the initiative last year.
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran also supports Built for Zero as she thinks it will bring actionable change to the homeless crisis in Portland. However, even as a supporter she is critical of the rollout of the program.
Meieran says one of the biggest issues is misinformation going around about Built for Zero and one of its defining elements: the by name list.
The by name list is supposed to be a comprehensive list of everyone in the community experiencing homelessness that’s updated monthly.
She said in order to address the problem we need that information to understand who is seeking help and what exactly they need.
“It’s like a family budget,” said Meieran. “You can’t just say we need a bunch of food to feed the family, and then we go out and we buy a bunch of random stuff. You need to know the specific needs of the family members — people are diabetic, they’re allergic, what they like to eat, are they vegan. Then, you can plan your meals according to your budget and the needs of your family, go shopping for the right ingredients and make the meal.”
Further, she said she’s concerned the key elements aren’t in place yet for a proper rollout. That includes someone who is in charge, who has the authority to make decisions and can be held accountable.
Right now, 107 counties or multi-county jurisdictions across the U.S. participate in Built for Zero. Using this model, chronic homelessness has been eliminated in eight communities across the nation.
The latest report on Built for Zero from the Joint Office for Homeless Services can be found here.