Common Ground’s approach to ending homelessness focuses on the most vulnerable homeless individuals: those who have been homeless the longest, who suffer from the most debilitating medical and mental health conditions, and who have established lives on the street, as opposed to seeking shelter and other assistance. The official term for this group is the chronically homeless, defined by the NYC Department of Homeless Services as an individual who has lived on the streets for more than nine months during a two year period. Despite being the primary consumers of substantial public resources, the chronically homeless have been consistently marginalized or ignored by conventional outreach, shelter, and housing systems.
Common Ground’s pioneering Street to Home initiative, launched in New York City in 2004, has demonstrated that the chronically homeless want and can succeed in permanent housing. Over a three-year period, Street to Home reduced street homelessness by 87% in the 20-block area around Times Square and by 43% in the surrounding 230 blocks of west midtown. Based on this success, in 2007 Street to Home was adopted as a citywide strategy by the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and each year the program has produced strong returns.