by Lara Rhodes
Each day approximately 700,000 people in America are homeless, and 110,000 of them are considered “chronically homeless,” 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, 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. The goal of the campaign is to find housing for the 100,000 most vulnerable homeless individuals and families by July 2013. To date, 65 communities across the United States have succeeded in finding homes for 7,203 people.
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.” During this step, the program’s local team scours the selected area, identifies the homeless and asks them to participate in a “vulnerability survey.”  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. 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. The information collected in this survey allows the team to quantify the demand,pinpoint those individuals who are the most vulnerable, and prioritize help. 
The “100,000 Homes Campaign” followed in the footsteps of another group, Pathways to Housing, who coined the “housing first” method to ending homelessness. The “housing first” model is simple and logical: first get the homeless off the streets, then offer them treatment and education. 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. The Pathways to Housing program has an 85% retention rate, 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.
 David Bornstein, A Plan to Make Homelessness History, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 20, 2010, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/a-plan-to-make-homelessness-history/.
 100K Homes, About, http://100khomes.org/about (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 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).
 100K Homes, Our Results, http://100khomes.org/our-results (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 100K Homes, The Model, http://100khomes.org/the-model (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 100K Homes Blog, WATCH: 100,000 Homes Campaign Launch Video, http://100khomes.org/blog/watch-100000-homes-campaign-launch-video (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 100K Homes, Clarify the Demand, http://100khomes.org/the-model/clarify-the-demand (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 Pathways to Housing, Our Model, http://www.pathwaystohousing.org/content/our_model (last visited Jan. 4, 2010).
 See supra note 1.
 See supra note 13.