Since 2018, Rocket Companies has been a lead sponsor of Built for Zero, a movement started by Community Solutions, which supports communities to build homeless response systems that can ensure homelessness is rare and brief. Alongside Community Solutions, we believe that everyone deserves a safe and stable home, and that homelessness is solvable. We help support the Built for Zero movement, made up of more than 100 communities across the country, that uses a data-driven approach aimed at decreasing homelessness.
Through Built for Zero, participating communities housed 6,665 veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide last year. Our support has also helped reduce veteran homelessness in Detroit by 60% from Dec. 2017 to Dec. 2022. Some highlights of our work in Detroit include our investment, alongside The Home Depot Foundation, in the conversion of a transitional housing facility to permanent supportive housing for veterans at 211 Glendale.
Another important area of partnership has been Rocket Mortgage’s support for Built for Zero has been the launch of several high-profile national advertising campaigns designed to raise awareness about the issue of chronic and veteran homelessness.
However, the success of these campaigns raised an unusual challenge. Fortunately, we had a solution!
When Technology, Innovation, and Accessibility Meet Volunteering
As Rocket Mortgage’s marketing campaigns ramped up, both Rocket Mortgage and Community Solutions began receiving numerous requests for help from veterans across the country. Because Built for Zero is about systems improvement and not direct services support, we needed a solution that could connect vulnerable individuals with more tangible resources in their community. Community Solutions connected with the Rocket Community Fund’s Volunteer Engagement and Giving team, which identified several technology team members from across Rocket Companies who were interested in providing their expertise to address the challenge.
These team members, who are active members of our Technology Gives Back group, are passionate about contributing to our community, so it was a win-win.
In the video below, these volunteers talk about their experience building the tool, alongside Bryan Beran, our Director of Volunteer Engagement and Giving, and Rob Lockett, our National Team Leader of Housing.
Our Rocket Mortgage skilled volunteers worked with experts at Community Solutions to build the Homeless Resource Locator which harnesses Google Maps to display the information of over 900 homeless service providers across the country – with special consideration given to accessibility and easy mobile use. Kaitlyn Ranney, Communications Manager, Learning at Community Solutions, approached Rocket Mortgage with the idea for the project and led the effort on the Community Solutions side, while Harold Jankowiak, Senior Product Owner, led the skilled volunteering project for Rocket Companies.
“We knew the people we were trying to reach were already facing difficulties, so we didn’t want a complicated design or non-essential features getting in the way of usability,” he explained. “We wanted our technology to be able to assist those who may have physical or cognitive limitations, so everyone could self-serve…Accessible design is just one more thing we can do to help people live independent lives.”
Since launching in November 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has linked to the tool on their website. This entire project is a proof of concept that when we continually collaborate on creative solutions to complex problems, we can accomplish anything.