Progress to Zero Update

It is the beginning of May.  As of today we still have 13 folks on our By-name list and 17 on the not By Name list.  This number hasn’t changed much over the last 5 months.  Of the 13 people on the BNL,  9 of them are in a supportive housing program.  These nine folks have been matched to a PSH program for an average of 114 days and not housed.  The longest folks have been matched to PSH is for 114 days.  The shortest match is 35 days.

This week we have also been confronted with a woman, who is both chronically homeless and pregnant who has been rejected for service by every PSH program and no realistic plan has been developed for her.

If we are going to end chronic homelessness, we have to do better by these folks.  What changes are necessary in order to speed up the time it takes for people matched in PSH to get housed?  What changes do we need to make to ensure that no one who is matched to PSH is rejected by every provider without a realistic housing solution?

These are questions we all must help find the answers or rather then making progress towards ending chronic homelessness, we will again see these numbers rise.

Andrea S. Kurtz

Progress to Zero Update

From: Andrea Kurtz , Senior Director, Housing Strategies, United Way of Forsyth County
In my call with our BFZ coach this week, Eddie asked me, what would help create the sense of urgency in our CoC that would propel us to meet our goal of ending Chronic Homelessness. So this week, I’m inviting the team to email me what they think will help create the urgency we need as a CoC to improve our system of care to help the 13 folks on our By Name List (BNL) and 17 folks on our not by-name list (nBNL) get housed (Note: the BNL are people who have consented to some service that connects them to our CoC, the nBNL are folks who outreach services have identified as homeless but have not consented to services connected to the CoC)and what changes do we need to make to ensure that people who are not chronically homeless don’t age into chronic status.
As we reflect on my question this week, think how far we have come. And we have come very far. In 2005, we estimated there were over 200 chronically homeless folks in our community. We were not sophisticated enough to even accurately count them all. Now, we know them all, by name. We have the tools to assess their vulnerabilities and goals. We have the systems to target supportive housing resources to the most vulnerable based on community determined priorities. We have data on programs’ success in placing people in permanent housing, on recidivism from these programs, on the flow of people in and out shelter, and many other markers of system function. You can see in our metrics that shifts have happened.
I believe we have the skills and the resources to make the final shift: from being a system that manages homeless people to being a system that helps people resolve their housing crisis; from being a system that defines people by their housing status, to being one that helps them build a better life based on their gifts, skills, and talents.
There will always be reasons that people lose their housing whether from natural disasters or accidents, fires, family break-up, sudden or chronic illness or significant life changes. I believe Winston-Salem, and specifically the staff and programs in our CoC have the talent and resources to help people manage through these crises without keeping them homeless so long that it becomes an indelible part of their identity. I also believe, we are close to the day that we are fully living into our vision of being a crisis response system, not a homeless management system.

Progress to Zero – Update 1

As many of you know, in 2005 our community committed to ending chronic homelessness.  This milestone is only a part of the larger vision our Continuum of Care (COC) has for homeless services to become a housing crisis response system that helps people facing a housing crisis stabilize their housing.   The proof point of ending chronic homelessness is only a stepping stone on this path.  One step we are imminently close to taking! When we made the commitment as a community to end chronic homelessness, there were over 200 folks in our community who were chronically homeless.    Today we have only 12!


We have come a long way as a community of practice serving people experiencing homelessness.  The changes we have made over the last 14 years to our system have been monumental…including the development of rapid re-housing, coordinated assessment, governance re-design,  improved partnerships with HAWS, the VA, DSS, WFUBMC, better data collection and improved use of data in decision making.  We have also strengthened our culture of partnership and collaboration including shelter/medical care partnerships at both Bethesda Center and Samaritan Ministries, the HAWS collaborative between Bethesda Center and HAWS, the sophisticated partnership between Cities with Dwellings and local faith communities to manage our winter over-flow and to support the development of supportive community as people transition into permanent housing.


This week, 8 of us attended the Built for Zero convening in Atlanta where we received training, guidance and support for innovative ways to better support you as we continue our progress towards Zero.  As we have over the past several years since joining BFZ, we will continue to share this knowledge through Action Camps, the operating cabinet, and other work groups and partnerships across our CoC.  A key concept of this work is continuous improvement.  A key concept of continuous improvement is to “test” or try something on a small scale before bringing a change to full scale, as a way to learn what works or doesn’t work to improve our ability to end homelessness. Through the methodology of Continuous Quality Improvement we have made changes to how we support people getting their disability verification, documenting their length of time homelessness, orientations, improved housing search and placement and many other areas of our system.


In January at our CoC retreat, we committed to ending chronic homelessness by June 30! When we hit this milestone, it will be because of  hard work,  dedication, and  compassion for serving our homeless neighbors.

I am committing in these last three months to this goal to sending out a weekly update celebrating the work we are doing as a CoC to end homelessness— all homelessness.



Andrea S. Kurtz


Progress to Zero – Continuum of Care Update – by Andrea Kurtz, JD Senior Director, Housing Strategies

At the root of all the work we do across the CoC is the goal of helping people who are homeless find a place to call home: one individual, one family at a time. As we have worked to align our programs and services across the CoC to this singular goal of housing the homeless we have gathered ample data and success stories demonstrating, that with the right supports anyone can be successful in permanent housing. This simple truth, that having a home, a place to set roots, to be who you is powerful. But as we inch closer to our goal of ending chronic homelessness, the refrain we hear most often is, there is not enough housing. The pressures on our rental housing market are so great, that some landlords are asking tenants to have 4x the monthly rent in income before they will consider renting to them; even if they come with a housing voucher covering the cost of rent.
Housing that is affordable, that meets fair market rent (FMR), is increasingly further out from the center of our community, compounding already challenging transportation issues. How are we to end chronic homelessness in this type of a housing market? The answer will be as it has always been, one individual, one family at a time.
One strategy for improving housing placement rates that has been discussed off and on in our community is shared housing. As with all strategies, there are pros and cons, and while it may not work for some, it may work for others. As no-one in our system has previously used this strategy regularly we are devoting part of the upcoming Action Camp on April 11th to exploring “Shared Housing.”
Our landlord engagement team is excited to welcome Karen Britton, our new Landlord Engagement Specialist with the Forsyth Rapid Re-Housing Collaborative. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a real estate professional and a deep passion for helping people find housing. She and Kristle will continue to build relationships with landlords and property managers across Forsyth County and to identify vacant units. They will be working very intensely over the next few months with the support of our coach from Built for Zero to try new strategies to encourage landlords to make units available to people transitioning out of homelessness.
Status update on the progress to Zero:
  • There are 13 chronically homeless folks on the By-name List.
  • 2 Chronically Homeless folks were housed this week! WOOHOO!
  • 10 folks from the BNL were matched to a supportive housing program.
Another key event this week, is the closing of the winter overflow shelters. 287 people were provided shelter this winter by City with Dwellings. Of those folks, 48 are now known to be permanently housed! They were housing using a combination of diversion, self-resolution, and a few were in supportive housing programs. 12 folks were diverted at the shelter door back to friends/family and 37 folks came to the shelter, didn’t stay at overflow, and never showed up in any other shelter this winter.

They left coats on trees and poles around Winston-Salem for people in need. Then they marveled at the kindness of others.

To Lois Koufman, the answer to a question that could have been answered in several ways on different levels was simple.

What possessed you to spend your afternoons buying up coats in Goodwill stores to hang in trees for homeless residents of town?

“Because it was cold outside,” she said.

Read more here


WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Volunteers Will Hit the Streets to Count People Experiencing Homelessness on January 30, 2019.

Twice a year, the lives of people experiencing homelessness have a greater potential to be changed, thanks to a program coordinated by United Way of Forsyth County (UWFC)  and the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Continuum of Care.

Starting at 9 p.m. on January 30, 2019, dozens of volunteers will meet at Samaritan Ministries 414 E NW Blvd, and hit the streets throughout the night to count the number of people sleeping outside. The exercise, called Homeless PointinTime Count is a one-day, un-duplicated count of sheltered and un-sheltered homeless individuals and families that happens across the country.

The event is part of a national initiative to measure and combat chronic homelessness. The goal is to give the local and federal government an idea of how many people are experiencing homelessness in the area, and to make sure there are enough appropriate services to help them.

Organizers will be assembling bags of necessities to hand out to homeless men and women and are seeking donations of winter hats, scarves, hand warmers, individual tissue packets, chapstick, sun screen, bottled water, canned foods with pop-tops or pre-packaged food, plastic utensils, and blankets.

For more information or to register to volunteer, contact Kathleen Wiener at or 336.721.9378

Sign up:

Press Release: United Way Forsyth County Recognizes Campaign Volunteers and Partner Agencies at Award Ceremony

WINSTON-SALEM, NC –  United Way Forsyth County Recognizes Campaign Volunteers and Partner Agencies  at Award Ceremony

On May 3, 2018, The United Way of Forsyth County hosted a thank you and award ceremony honoring partners, staff, volunteers and donors for their work during the 2017 campaign at the Center for Design Innovation.

Winners included:

Laura Harrell, Hall of Fame Award, Twin City Warehouse/Adele Knits- recognized for her thirty years of service as a campaign chair.

Wake Forest University, Personal Touch Award; Barbara Walker, the 2017 Campaign Chair, was also recognized for her hard work and organization of a successful campaign.

Campaign Chair of the Year Award: Dave Riser, Reynolds American Inc.; Riser was recognized for being instrumental in Reynolds American’s campaign which reached a goal of 2.2 million dollars.

Shining Star Award: Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC; Goodwill was recognized as a partner agency and true advocate for the United Way.

Advocates of the Year: Jennie Grant- Heaton, BB&T , Trisha Coleman, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center; as leaders of our Young Leaders United and Women’s Leadership Council affinity groups.

Leader of the Year: Tony Smits John Deere-Hitachi, recognized for the company’s 65% participation rate and 31% increase campaign dollars raised.

Spirit of the Community Award: Quality Oil-recognizing their leadership as keen advocates and supporters of the United Way.

Special Guest Speakers included Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director, Housing Strategies who updated the attendees on the progress of the ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness. In 2006, the city of Winston-Salem, and Forsyth County adopted the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. United Way of Forsyth County was chosen for its expertise and capacity to leverage community resources, coordinate collaborative projects and improve the system for all people experiencing a housing crisis. Since 2006, Chronic Veteran Homelessness has been eradicated and the number of the chronic homeless has been reduced from over 200 in 2006 to 17 (as documented in the January, 2018 Point in Time Count). Kurtz noted, “We continue to work towards a day when individuals are referred to their talents and contributions and not their housing status.”

Denita Mitchell, Program Director and former Client of the YWCA Hawley House spoke about her own recovery from substance abuse and how she moved from being a client of the Hawley House program to a member of the leadership team.  “I am very thankful to the United Way for supporting a program that helped me make a difference in my life”.

United Way of Forsyth County President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer noted, “One thing every strong community needs is a strong United Way. We are very fortunate to have a large network of partners that work with us collaboratively to ensure our entire community has access to a good life, as well as  our community volunteers who advocate passionately for those most in need. Thank you joining us in celebrating what it means to Live United over the past 95 years”.


Pictured: l-r: Dave Riser, VP External Relations, Reynolds American, Cindy Gordineer, President and CEO, United Way Forsyth County,  Dr. John D. McConnell, CEO Emeritus , Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.


# # #

Press Release: Operation Bed Roll Delivers Sleeping Mats to United Way Forsyth County December 22

Winston Salem, NC (December 18, 2017) – In the spirit of this season, Operation Bed Roll and Winston Salem Police will deliver over 100 crocheted plastic bag yarn (or plarn) sleeping mats in Winston-Salem at 9 am at the United Way of Forsyth County, 301 N. Main Street, Friday, December 22.

“Greensboro residents have shown the depths of their compassion through Operation Bed Roll, spending hundreds of hours to create sleeping mats for their neighbors,” said Tori Carle, Greensboro Field Operation’s recycling program manager. “Now we’re going to share that generosity with our neighbors in Winston-Salem” 

The bed rolls provide an insulated barrier for those who sleep on the ground or are outside for extended periods of time in the winter weather. They will be given to Winston-Salem Police and the United Way to distribute to individuals during their next Point in Time Count, which identifies individuals experiencing homelessness in the community. Forsyth County’s January 2017 Point in Time Count identified 453 people experiencing homelessness, including 25 who were unsheltered.

Operation Bed Roll is collaboration between Greensboro’s Field Operations, Library and Police departments to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills – and help some of the community’s neediest residents have a safe place to sleep this winter. Plastic bags and films are not accepted in Greensboro or Winston-Salem’s municipal recycling programs. Plastic bags can get tangled in machinery at the recycling plant. Plastics bags should be recycled at participating retail locations, like grocery stores.

Since its inception in 2016, more than 4,000 people have learned how to make plarn from plastic bags and turn them into crocheted bed rolls with Operation Bed Roll. An estimated 212,000 plastic bags have been kept out of landfills by this project.


What Do Homeless Vets Look Like?

If you ask them, homeless veterans might tell you they only have a vague idea of what they look like, or how they got to where they are. At least that was true of the few we met in San Diego.

There are about 50,000 homeless vets in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans who have struggled with drug use or mental illness, unemployment or criminal records — or any number of things. The VA says it plans to end homelessness among vets by 2015.

Homeless veterans, though, may not see themselves as “homeless veterans” at all. If you passed one on the street, you might not even know it.

Portrait 1: Marcus Bennett

Marcus Bennett is 32. He joined the Marines as a teenager and served for 10 years.

He hasn’t been living on the streets — which is what “homeless” sometimes suggests — but has been staying in a motel the past few months.

We met Bennett at an event for homeless veterans in San Diego called Stand Down.

It’s a pop-up, military-style tent village where vets can get help for a weekend. Volunteers offer haircuts, warm meals, cots to sleep on, legal help.

We did a little pop-up of our own — a portrait studio on the periphery — and asked the same questions of all the veterans who came by: How’d you end up here? What have you seen? How do you see yourself?

To get at that last question, we invited them to pose any way they wanted for the camera. And then look at themselves in the photos. They also told us their stories. We took them at their word. We’re not sure if they’ll ever see the photos here.

We liked the picture of Bennett smiling, but he wanted one without his teeth showing.

“It’s hard for me to sit back and smile and enjoy little things.”

What these pictures don’t show you is his past, and what he thinks about it: Buddies killed at war. His wife, or rather, his ex-wife. Their two kids, 2 and 9.

He told us about how his unit was one of the first to push into Iraq. And how, on their first day of combat, they wandered straight into a minefield. He later got a concussion from a mortar round. When he got out in 2010, he says, he had a hard time.

He’d suffered a traumatic brain injury and says his medical records indicate he’s 70 percent disabled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He started having crying spells. He drank a lot, got a DUI, spent some time in jail. Now he lives in San Diego — along with many more homeless veterans.

“When you’re in the service you try not to get the help — ’cause you don’t want to be looked at as weak.

“I feel like I was a failure as a husband, and I don’t want to be that way as a father. I’ve got so much more life ahead of me. I gotta put all this bad stuff behind me, and learn to cope with what’s been going on with me.”

Portrait 2: Vanessa Messner

“I want something where I’m looking more fun.”

Messner, 40, was born in Panama and served in the Army from 1996-2001 as a medical-supply specialist. She worked in restaurants when she got out. Couldn’t pay rent. She and her boyfriend started having fights.

Then, she says, her house burned down. Child Protective Services took custody of her children. She’s been living in an RV park since then. That’s where she met another vet, who told her about ways she could get help.

“I used to keep pictures of my kids when they were little. All the pictures, every card they wrote me. All that is gone.”

It had been awhile since she’d had a portrait made. She came prepared to work it. (Note the accessories.)

Portrait 3: Leonardo Dearie

“That’s so sad.”

Dearie, 55, saw himself smiling, but didn’t think he looked happy.

He served in the Marine Corps in the late ’70s, and has been homeless on and off over the years, which is not uncommon. He has diabetes and had a stroke in 2006. The last time he had a portrait made was decades ago, when he was in the Corps.

Portrait 4: Kiki Keone

“No, that wouldn’t be me.”

Keone, 73, was born in Hawaii. He says he served two tours in the Army in Vietnam, doing special operations and reconnaissance.

Lately he’s been staying at St. Vincent de Paul Village, a nonprofit for homeless people in San Diego. He just had surgery on a blood clot in his right eye, hence the patch.

“I saw a lot of friends die. It’s hard. I don’t like to remember things, ’cause you see too many things happen. That’s why they call it, what, post-trauma stress?

“You wake up, you’re screaming, you’re fighting. You try to get help, and that doesn’t solve the problem, but it always comes back. So I always say, you gotta deal with it.”

“I mean, that’s the way I stand.”

Portrait 5: Dolas Jackson

“I need to trim my mustache down. Looks kinda mean.”

Dolas Jackson, 56, says he enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was 16. He has an apartment now, but was homeless for about five years. The last portraits he had taken were for his high school yearbook and his Marine Corps recruitment photo.

“I can see my age from 16 to 56. I’ve changed a lot.”

“It’s hard to read a face sometimes. Even just looking at these photos I’m seeing where I need to do more stuff like this. I need to get out what’s inside of me from the service, because I can see the wear and tear it’s got on me. You try to not let it become a part of you, but it’s always a part of you.”

“That helped out ’cause it relaxed my jaw line. You can tell I got a lot of tension still in me.”

Portrait 6: Melinda Baca

“Oh, God, I just feel fat.”

Baca felt better about how she looked when the breeze started blowing and she posed with her hands in her pockets. The last photo she’d had taken was pretty recently — at her wedding.

She did clerical work in the Navy in the late ’80s and never deployed to a war zone. After she got out, she ended up homeless for about 10 years. “Living in motels and stuff like that.” She’s had a house for a little over two years now.

“It makes you a different person, going in the service. It makes you more structured. My mom said I was different when I came back.”

“That is good! The one with the pockets.”

Portrait 7: The Parks

“That’s a good one. Eyes are clear, fat on my face.”

These days, Fred E. Parks Jr. is happy to look a little fat in his pictures. It’s better than a photo his mother keeps as a reminder. “[It’s] a picture of me when I was doing drugs. I look like Skeletor’s little brother,” he says. “Now my mother has her son back.”

Parks was in the Army for about five years in the ‘80s. After he got out, he ended up homeless for about 25 years — addicted to crack, going by the name “Shorty.”

Eventually, and very recently, he got himself off the streets. He got married. Now that he’s clean, his mom takes his picture all the time, and insists he go by his birth name, including the middle initial.

“Time goes by so fast when you’re homeless — you don’t know. Some [vets] don’t know about services they’re offered. Other guys just don’t want help. How you tell a young kid not to get high so he can forget? A lot of us do things because we’re hurting inside. We don’t wanna feel it so we get loaded. Today I can face my problems.”

Parks’ wife, Jessica, was homeless for 35 years. Someone once told her she doesn’t look homeless.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, Miss, but what is a homeless person supposed to look like?’”

Portrait 8: Henry Addington

“This is such a trip. Phony.”

Addington, 67, served with the Navy in Vietnam. He says he doesn’t remember the last photo he had taken, and didn’t seem to care which photo we used. He also didn’t seem too impressed by outreach efforts to homeless vets.

“Veterans Administration put on this show. Don’t get no medical help or nothing.”

Portrait 9: Dan Martin

Martin, 29, says the last photo he had taken was a mug shot.

He was a Marine for four years, then in the Army for three. And the story he tells is not unusual.

He was a medic in Iraq — part of a quick reaction force. High-pressured, fast-paced and intense, which doesn’t always translate to work back home.

After getting out of the service and returning to California, he learned that two friends he’d served with had committed suicide. He couldn’t keep a steady job. Couldn’t pay rent. Got in trouble with the law. Lost his EMT certification and his car. He couldn’t relate to people, and imagined what people thought of him.

“They look down on you. ‘You’re a vet, but you probably did it to yourself.’”

For a while, Martin didn’t know what resources were available to him. Then he learned about Stand Down. He went looking for housing, and lucked out. He got an appointment with a nonprofit that helps with that. On the last day of the event, he seemed optimistic that he wouldn’t have to stay homeless.

“It’s a temporary setback — not a lifestyle choice. At least that’s what I try and believe.”

Stand Down ended before his appointment, though, so it was back on the street for one more night — with a new backpack and sleeping bag, at least.

Martin spent a few more nights on the street, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever get housing.

Weeks later we heard from the housing outreach people at Stand Down — Martin has a roof over his head, and he’s trying to find a job.


Click here for the photos that accompany each story.


Press Release: Volunteers Will Hit the Streets to Count People Experiencing Homelessness on July 26, 2017

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Volunteers Will Hit the Streets to Count People Experiencing Homelessness on July 26, 2017

Twice a year, the lives of people experiencing homelessness have a greater potential to be changed, thanks to a program coordinated by United Way of Forsyth County (UWFC) and the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Continuum of Care.

Starting at 8 p.m. on July 26, 2017, dozens of volunteers will meet at Samaritan Ministries 414 E NW Blvd, and hit the streets throughout the night to count the number of people sleeping outside. The exercise, called Homeless Point-in-Time Count is a one-day, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families that happens across the country.

The event is part of a national initiative to measure and combat chronic homelessness. The goal is to give the local and federal government an idea of how many people are experiencing homelessness in the area, and to make sure there are enough appropriate services to help them.

Volunteers will be organized into groups of four or five and in two shifts, 8pm-12am and 1am-4am. Organizers will be assembling bags of necessities to hand out to homeless men and women and are seeking donations of individual tissue packets, sun screen, bottled water, canned foods with pop-tops or pre-packaged food, and plastic utensils.

Before the volunteers take to the streets, they will receive training on personal safety, how to identify homeless individuals, where homeless individuals may be sleeping and how to survey individuals experiencing homelessness.

For more information or to register to volunteer, contact Kathleen  Wiener at or 336.721.9378.

Community residents may register here:

In October 2015, Winston-Salem was certified as having met the goal of ending veteran homelessness. Now the community is attempting to end chronic homelessness by 2017. Both of these milestones are part of Built for Zero, a national campaign to end veteran and chronic homelessness.

Information learned from previous counts has helped officials to develop more efficient resource programs to better serve those experiencing homelessness .


United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.