by Lara Rhodes

Each day approximately 700,000 people in America are homeless,[1] and 110,000 of them are considered “chronically homeless,”[2] living on the streets or in a shelter for more than a year. Despite these shocking statistics, homelessness takes a backseat to other hot-button issues, such as healthcare reform and immigration.   To many who live in big cities, homelessness is so commonplace that is perceived as a personal annoyance instead of a societal problem.

Over the years, Congress has created five programs by statute to help provide shelter for the homeless,[3] but more must be done to combat this overwhelming problem.  To bring this issue back to the forefront, an organization called Common Ground launched the “100,000 Homes Campaign” in July 2010.[4] The goal of the campaign is to find housing for the 100,000 most vulnerable homeless individuals and families by July 2013.[5] To date, 65 communities across the United States have succeeded in finding homes for 7,203 people.[6]

Regardless of whether the 100,000 mark is met, this campaign has changed the way homelessness is viewed, has offered innovative ways homelessness is addressed.  The campaign does not look at homelessness as an abstract problem, but rather, individualizes each homeless person in a given area, placing a name and a face to the problem.

This concept is detailed in step two of the program’s five-step model: “Clarify the Demand.”[7] During this step, the program’s local team scours the selected area, identifies the homeless and asks them to participate in a “vulnerability survey.” [8] Information collected during this survey includes the individual’s name, date of birth, social security number, amount of time living on the street, and existence of various health conditions with high mortality rates.[9] At the end of the survey process a photograph is taken of the individual, giving a face to and adding a personal element to the problem of homelessness.[10] The information collected in this survey allows the team to quantify the demand,[11]pinpoint those individuals who are the most vulnerable, and prioritize help. [12]

The “100,000 Homes Campaign” followed in the footsteps of another group, Pathways to Housing, who coined the “housing first” method to ending homelessness.[13] The “housing first” model is simple and logical: first get the homeless off the streets, then offer them treatment and education.[14] Other programs require that homeless people be drug and alcohol free before providing them with housing, creating a huge barrier to many who need help.[15] The Pathways to Housing program has an 85% retention rate,[16] offering undeniable evidence that providing housing is the most effective step to ending homelessness.

Using Pathways to Housing’s retention rate and assuming 100,000 Homes meets its goal, 85,000 people will remain off the streets by July 2013.  Reducing homelessness by such a drastic amount would be a remarkable accomplishment — and really — 100,000 Homes’ progress, thus far, is quite astounding.

To continue this progress we must raise awareness – concrete awareness.  A human connection must be made between the homeless and their community.  The public should listen to their stories, and learn about the ways they can actually make a difference.  100,000 Homes has provided the pieces to the puzzle with their five-step method, and all we need to do is find the people to lay them in place until we have a picture of America with empty streets.

[1] David Bornstein, A Plan to Make Homelessness History, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 20, 2010,
[2] 100K Homes, About, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[3] The five programs are: Emergency Shelter Grants Program; Supportive Housing Program; Safe Havens for Homeless Individuals Demonstration Program; Shelter Plus Care Program; and Rural Homeless Housing Assistance.  Eric C. Surette, Homeless Assistance Programs, 79 Am. J. Juris. 2d Welfare § 44 (2010).
[4] Id.
[6] 100K Homes, Our Results, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[7] 100K Homes, The Model, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[8] 100K Homes Blog, WATCH: 100,000 Homes Campaign Launch Video, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[9] Id.
[11] 100K Homes, Clarify the Demand, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[12] Id.
[13] Pathways to Housing, Our Model, (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
[14] Id.
[15] See supra note 1.
[16] See supra note 13.

3 thoughts on “100K Homes: Emptying America’s Streets

  1. I agree that this program needs more publicity. What would be the best way for people to spread the word and/or get involved?

  2. Thank you for writing about this important issue, Lara.

    I’d like to also raise awareness of the work being done in Phoenix by the Arizona Organizing Project. Please consider joining them in addressing homlessness issues in our own community.
    I have included an invtiation to the next event on March 18.

    The Phoenix Committee of Homeless Campers Presents:

    A Campaign for Civil Rights and to End Criminalization of Homelessness

    Friday, March 18

    Strategy Meeting 2:00pm–4:00pm
    Hot Dinner 4:00-5:00pm

    1st and 3rd Fridays

    At Arizona Organizing Project’s
    New Community Center
    1010 W. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85007

    The Phoenix Committee of Homeless Campers is a peer group started in
    2010 led by homeless people to advocate for their human rights and
    Constitutional rights.

    The Phoenix Camping law makes it a crime “to use real property of the
    City for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or
    making preparations to sleep, including the laying down of bedding for
    the purpose of sleeping… or using any tents or shelter or other
    structure or vehicle for sleeping.” (Ord. No. G-3552, § 1; Ord. No.
    G-4660, §§ 1, 2, adopted 12-8-2004, eff. 1-7-2005)

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona says that while shelter
    facilities are insufficient in the city of Phoenix it is
    unconstitutional to have a law on the books that criminalizes camping.
    Courts have found arrests for camping to be cruel and unusual
    punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment since the targets of
    City policies have “literally no place to go.” Sleeping would never be
    against the law in a home, so it should not be against the law on the

    The Phoenix Committee of Homeless Campers
    is supported by the Arizona Organizing Project
    Call: 602-850-7306 Email:
    Get text message updates by
    texting follow azorganizing to 40404
    Facebook Friend “Arizona Organizing Project”
    Follow @azorganizing on Twitter

  3. Hey Jennis & Kevin – Thanks for reading my article!
    Jennis – There aren’t currently any “events” posted online for Phoenix through the program, but I’m going to check back periodically. The contact information for the Phoenix group is: Mike Shore; Mattie Lord
    Email:, Phone: (602) 507-6737;(602) 542-9949. I’ll get in contact with them to see if we can set up an event and get students involved. As of today they’ve housed 95 people in the Phoenix area. I’d love to help increase that number!
    Kevin – I’m unfortunately going to be out of town on the 18th, but I’m interested in helping out at other events, so please let me know when opportunities are available!

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