CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition (CRHC) has some welcome news: It says the Chattanooga community along with southeastern Tennessee has reached "functional zero" on veteran homelessness.
The CRHC says the region is just one of 11 communities in the entire country to be certified on two benchmarks set by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as functional zero on veteran homelessness, which is certified by the Built for Zero initiative.
Functional zero means that fewer veterans experience homelessness than can be routinely housed in a month.
CRHC spokeswoman Anna Kim says "This is pretty remarkable, when you consider that the Chattanooga and Southeast Tennessee homeless response system serves a population of approximately 700,000 people across 11 counties."
One Army veteran says these numbers don't tell the whole story.
Gilbert Fowler says he's been homeless for 50 years saying, "They city they recognize some of it but they don’t recognize all of it."
CRHC says it means that the community has a system of response that can ensure homelessness is rare and brief. The community has sustained this milestone for more than two months, proving its homeless response system can render veteran homelessness rare and brief even as new veterans experience housing crises, according to CRHC.
The group points out that reaching "functional zero" doesn't mean the area's veterans still don't face challenges.
"Rather, it means that a coordinated system of care has been established that connects homeless veterans to housing and services, effectively ending their homeless status soon after they’ve been identified," Kim says.
Kim says the average length of time it takes a veteran to be housed went from 80 to just 48 days.
Over the last year, CHRC says a total of 88 veterans were housed and removed from the community's by-name list of homelessness veterans.