Discerning ‘Functional Zero’: Considerations for Defining and Measuring an End to Homelessness in Canada

Discerning ‘Functional Zero’: Considerations for Defining and Measuring an End to Homelessness in Canada

This paper has been revised to reflect feedback from the consultation process. The revised document, published by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, can be downloaded here.


The notion of ending homelessness has increasingly shaped public policy and community-based responses towards greater accountability and evidence-based decision making. In recent years, communities have begun to “declare” they have in fact achieved the goal of “Functional Zero” with respect to ending homelessness. New Orleans, for example, has publically announced they have ended veterans’ homelessness, while Medicine Hat is gaining attention as “the first community to end chronic homelessness in Canada”.

Despite promising signs of progress from such communities, there is no internationally recognized definition of what an end of homelessness entails, what the indicators and targets should be confirming such an achievement, or what process might validate whether a community has indeed met their goal.

To this end, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), the University of Calgary School of Public Policy (SPP), and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) are supporting a collaborative process to develop a national definition of an end to homelessness. Through this process, we aim to also outline critical measures needed to confirm an end to homelessness and propose a set of indicators based on an international review of targets and on-the-ground experience of communities working in this direction.


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ORGANIZATION: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), University of Calgary School of Public Policy (SPP), Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH)
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016
LOCATION: Canada