Discerning ‘Functional and Absolute Zero’: Defining and Measuring an End to Homelessness in Canada

43 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2017 Last revised: 5 Jul 2017

See all articles by Alina Turner

Alina Turner

University of Calgary - The School of Public Policy

Tom Albanese

Abt Associates, Inc.

Kyle Pakeman

Queen's University (Canada), Students

Date Written: January 19, 2017

Abstract

Several cities and regions have announced that they have “ended homelessness,” as this goal has become a major part of policy and community-based responses to homelessness. Yet, there are different ways to define what “ending homelessness” actually means. It is almost never meant in its most literal form, which would mean having every resident in a community sleeping in his or her own, secure home, on any given night. While that is certainly the ideal, and the goal we can work towards, it is simply not realistic in practice. People may find themselves homeless, at least temporarily. We need a meaningful and useful definition of “ending homelessness” that recognizes that reality, while pushing us towards an ideal situation.

This is the difference between a Functional Zero end to homelessness and an Absolute Zero end to homelessness. To the public, the words “ending homelessness” likely bring to mind a vision of someday when no person will ever experience homelessness, which is the ideal Absolute Zero concept, that is arguably unlikely to fully achieve. The goal of a Functional Zero end to homelessness, simplified, is to achieve a point where there are enough services, housing and shelter beds for everyone who needs them, and anyone who experiences homelessness does so only briefly, is rehoused successfully, and is unlikely to return to homelessness again.

Keywords: homelessness, ending homelessness, functional zero, absolute zero, homeless shelter

Suggested Citation

Turner, Alina and Albanese, Tom and Pakeman, Kyle, Discerning ‘Functional and Absolute Zero’: Defining and Measuring an End to Homelessness in Canada (January 19, 2017). SPP Research Paper, Volume 10, Issue 2, April 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2957845 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2957845

Alina Turner (Contact Author)

University of Calgary - The School of Public Policy ( email )

Calgary, Alberta
Canada

Tom Albanese

Abt Associates, Inc.

55 Wheeler Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-1168
United States

Kyle Pakeman

Queen's University (Canada), Students

Kingston
Canada

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