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How The Built For Zero Movement Is Working To Abolish Homelessness

Hear from practitioners in Detroit who are reducing veteran homelessness and meet the needs of other populations.

October 18, 2023

The “Built for Zero” movement is a beacon of hope in the fight against homelessness. With over 100 communities in the United States committed to measurably ending homelessness, they're proving that this monumental task is not only possible but achievable.

Detroit is one such Built for Zero community that is dedicated to making homelessness rare and brief for specific populations, ultimately reaching “functional zero.” This dynamic end state means that fewer people experience homelessness than can routinely exit homelessness within a month.

During this webinar, we'll explore how four organizations in Detroit used the four core components of the Built for Zero methodology and worked together to convert transitional housing to permanent housing units for veterans experiencing homelessness. Community Solutions notes that Detroit is the first large city that is within reach of functional zero for a population. We’ll also discuss how this one site with a specific methodology fits into Detroit’s overall approach to reducing homelessness.



Deonna Anderson is Next City’s editorial director. An award-winning journalist, she has served as a senior editor GreenBiz and worked with YES! Magazine, KLCC (an NPR affiliate station in Eugene, Oregon), The Lily, Atmos and other media outlets. Anderson is an alumna of the University of California, Davis and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She lives in the Bay Area. She was also Next City’s 2017-2018 Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow.



Diandra Gourlay, vice president of social services for VOAMI, has a master’s in public policy and public administration from the University of Michigan Dearborn. Diandra is a nonprofit executive leader with over 10 years of leadership, management, and training expertise and more than four years of federal, state, local, and private grant management, and programmatic execution. Her expertise includes grant writing, program development, strategic planning, project management, program evaluation, advocacy, and networking. Diandra serves as a committee chair on the Board of America Society for Public Administrators (ASPA) - Metro Detroit. Diandra also serves the co-chair for the Detroit Veterans Leadership Committee. Her work focuses on ending homelessness for Michigan veterans and, more specifically, getting Detroit to Functional Zero. She oversees the veterans’ programs for Volunteers of America Michigan, serving 18 counties across southern Michigan.


Benne Baker is a seasoned executive with over 18 years in the human services field and has been a champion for the people in both the profit and non-profit arenas. Benne currently serves as the Director of Housing at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries where for the past 3 years she has overseen all of the permanent supportive housing and emergency shelter programs in multiple counties. DRMM is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1909 and cited by the U.S. News and World Report as the 13th largest substance abuse treatment center in the U.S. DRMM is also one of the largest rescue missions in the world. providing meaningful help and hope to over 2200 persons daily. Ms. Baker is DRMM’s key liaison with our Built for Zero project, providing affordable housing for the veteran population.


Nate French is the Director of Community Impact for Community Solutions, whose works directly with communities to build and improve systems to end homelessness. He manages Built for Zero’s Breakthrough Collaboratives portfolio, where he works intensively with local partners to push toward the goal of ending veteran and chronic homelessness using data-driven interventions. Nate comes to Community Solutions from the grassroots work in Los Angeles to build a coordinated entry system. Through his first-hand experience, he believes that our greatest hope in solving our most pressing complex social problems is through empowering local communities to create unique solutions and take collective action.

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