Understanding the Success of Chicago’s Ending Veteran Homelessness Initiative

The Ending Veteran Homelessness Initiative (EVHI) is an effort by local, regional, and federal partners to end and prevent homelessness among veterans in the city of Chicago through a coordinated, data-driven process. The initiative built off the momentum of multiple national efforts, including 25 Cities, Built for Zero, and the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, among other campaigns. Since its start in 2015, EVHI has led to a 28 percent reduction in veterans experiencing homelessness. EVHI consists of multiple teams each structured to fulfill a specific purpose.

The Leadership Team for the project, made up of leaders from funding and coordinating agencies, as well as regional coordinators and federal representatives, is tasked with allocating resources, removing barriers, and monitoring progress. The Community Team offers critical insights from homeless service providers and identifies challenges. System Navigators and the Outreach Teams help implement the day-to-day tasks of locating and assisting veterans. The initiative has fundamentally transformed the way that Chicago houses veterans and, ultimately, all people experiencing homelessness. Service providers, funders, and coordinators, such as All Chicago Making Homelessness History, are increasingly aligned in their efforts, using a coordinated entry process to match veterans to housing and ensure that they remain housed.

Participants are also cooperating by sharing resources, such as housing choice vouchers, data, and staff time. With a centralized database and a By-Name List, data has a more prominent role in the system, helping drive decisions and track progress. The coordination, cooperation, and centralized data are indicative of the change in perspective from a project-centric focus to a system framework. Through EVHI, agencies better understand the full scope of the challenge and work together to implement solutions that will drive systemwide change. These fundamental changes would not have been possible without the political support from the federal government and the City of Chicago, notably the Office of the Mayor, as well as the continued commitment of members of the Leadership Team, the Community Team, and the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). EVHI led to more resources for housing veterans and produced efficiencies in the system.

The initiative was not without struggle, however data-related issues created hurdles, particularly at the start of the initiative. The structure of EVHI also evolved after initial conflict. Stakeholders had to adjust to a culture of rapid change and experimentation. The process of creating partnerships and building trust required significant time investment and constant communication. More work remains to be done through EVHI. Interviewees for this report propose some potential next steps and needs, including additional resources, even better coordination, and continued relationship-building with stakeholders in the shelter system and employment sector.

Publication Date: 
United States