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
Date Written: January 19, 2017
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
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