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Rockford, IL uses real-time, by-name data to reach functional zero with homeless population

Rockford, IL, USA
The Atlas Community Team

Government Champion

Community Service Director


Zero upfront cost to local government

Project Status

Operational since 2015

At a Glance

In January 2017, Rockford, IL became the first community in the United States to end both chronic and veteran homelessness. Thanks to a system that can ensure homelessness is rare and brief, Rockford, IL has a sustainable solution to the chronic homelessness its citizens face.

Problem Addressed

In 2014, over 700 of Rockford's 147,000 residents were experiencing homelessness. When the Obama administration challenged mayors countrywide to end veteran homelessness, Rockford was one of the first cities to join.

The city then joined Built for Zero, a movement of more than 80 communities looking to end homelessness. The movement connected the city to others already using unique solutions to solve for their own homelessness, giving Rockford a solid foundation for addressing its own homelessness and reaching functional zero, indicating that a community has measurably ended homelessness for a population.

Rockford, IL used/is using real-time data, a command center, and redesigned homeless response to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Rockford began its journey towards functional zero by gathering real-time, person-specific data. Instead of looking at exclusively annual data for homelessness, the city opted in for By-Name Lists, which lists more specific data that includes insights on everyone experiencing homelessness by name. The city maintains a list of every person experiencing homelessness, including veterans, young adults, singles and families, giving the community a more holistic view of homelessness. Each individual that makes contact with city services is added to the appropriate list and prioritized based on assessment, giving communities the ability to better understand their position and innovate accordingly. The result was a system that, in 2015 had data on every veteran experiencing homelessness, and by 2016 had data on those experiencing chronic homelessness.

The community also worked hand in hand with key agencies, recognizing their shared goal of getting to zero homelessness. As a result, the city created a multi-agency "command center," that utilizes the real-time data and prioritization to determine homeless population eligibility for permanent housing. Using a "collective impact model," teams of agencies that would naturally interact with the population were grouped together on teams. Each team evaluated the data, and discussed each contact on the list, developing an outreach strategy if necessary. This ensured team members carried out their outreach, while permanently housing everyone on the list.

Armed with data, the community implemented a homeless hotline, a single point of physical entry, and street outreach entry to provide assessment and enrollment into coordinated intake. Assessment staff can now provide necessary prevention and referrals to prioritize who in the community would receive housing first. Collaboration with emergency shelters, grant per diem providers, and transitional housing facilitated this system.


  1. In 2015, the city reached functional zero for veteran homelessness and did the same for chronic homelessness in 2017.
  2. Real-time data allowed agencies/the city to develop a profile for each homeless individual, and better inform command center strategy.
  3. Cross agency collaboration allowed agencies to better see how all the pieces in the community fit together, emphasizing how their shared goal would be best reached together.
  4. The command center has sustained clear, constant communication with the homeless population to properly prioritize individuals for permanent housing.

Something Unique

A unique part of this project is the hands-on involvement of the town's mayors. Mayor Larry Morrissey publicly committed to ending veteran homelessness, pushing the community to set targets and measure project each week. His successor, Mayor Tom McNamara, has done the same to ensure the project's sustainability.

Who Should Consider?

Communities looking to address homelessness with real-time, accurate data and cross-agency collaboration.

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