In the fall of 2020, Justice Matters became increasingly concerned about the number of people who would spend the winter months without shelter. After some digging, the homelessness committee learned that there would be around 130 people in Lawrence spending the winter unsheltered. In response, the committee pushed the city to fund a hotel shelter to keep these folks safe from the cold and COVID. The number of people who received services at this shelter was staggering. From December 23rd when it opened to March 5th when it closed, 650 unique individuals had sought shelter from sub-freezing temperatures- five times the number of people we expected. This shelter saved lives, but it is not a long-term solution. This spring, Justice Matters wants to end chronic homelessness in Lawrence for good. Here’s how we’ll do it:


  • We’re advocating for a program called Built-For-Zero to be implemented by all service providers across Douglas County. This program has brought the number of people experiencing homelessness to “functional zero” in 17 cities across the United States. The concept of functional zero is explained here


  • All service providers will work together to create a “by-names list” with information from each person experiencing homelessness. This list is updated as new people enter the system. 


  • Each person has unique needs that contribute to their homeless situation- they might need treatment for mental illnesses, or medical care, or addiction treatment- just to name a few. All of the service providers work together to find each person the best services based upon their unique needs. This is called case conferencing.


  • With all providers working together using this method, homelessness becomes rare overall and brief when it occurs. For example, Bergen County, NJ, with a population of 932,000 people, ended veteran and chronic homelessness in just 6 months. Learn more about Built-For-Zero here.


  • Justice Matters will come together and act to end homelessness at our annual Action Assembly on Monday, May 3rd. Sign up to join us here.