The Bell Curve

 In Reflections
Reflections from the Front Lines

The Bell Curve

It takes everyone to achieve big audacious goals.

It’s been 14 days since my last post. Approaching 15 months of loss of smell personally, and no new scents other than skunk. Maybe 2023 will bring me some olfactory progress.

I’ve never been big on making resolutions at the turn of a calendar year, as I approach life as a more frequent exercise in setting goals, practicing new disciplines, and embracing the notion of continuous quality improvement when it comes to both the personal and professional.

What I have done the last couple of years professionally is use the white board in my office to sketch out broad goals for the Human Services Campus, Inc. and ending homelessness. Each year the white board went through edits – adding and subtracting info and clarifying.

Today I erased the bell curve that graced my wall for the last year.

The Bell Curve

When I started to draw the bell curve twelve months ago, I didn’t know it would become a powerful tool for strategic conversations, planning and conspiring for the greater good. A set of two simple lines, one a very rough estimation of an 80/20 bell curve, and the other a close-to-straight line representing “functional zero.” On the topic of ending homelessness, the bell curve is to depict that the middle of the curve is where a majority of resource and discussion happens when we speak of homelessness. And we get stuck here in the middle when we talk about ending homelessness. What it really takes is prevention on the left end and housing on the right end. The inflow of people into homelessness will continue happening unless we have very real and successful prevention strategies. And we need enough of all types of housing on the right end to create an outflow of people thereby “ending” their individual homelessness. The bell curve must be flattened in order to have an effective system and achieve functional zero.

Functional zero and that line represents the potential to have an effective crisis response system so that when people lose their housing, there is a system of interventions that can quickly and effectively help them to find permanent, safe, affordable, accessible housing. An effective system would reduce the number of days a person has an episode of homelessness, and would have sufficient housing interventions and inventory so that people would be successful in housing and not return to homelessness.

The green dots represent programs and strategies that HSC currently has in place. The strategic conversations are about which interventions can/should HSC take to greater scale, where can HSC support partners also doing the work, what advocacy can HSC do to influence the broader system, and how do we create a community movement to share this vision for all humans in Maricopa County with sufficient resources to fund and support everything from prevention through interventions to housing.

There are other words around this, centering dynamics of addressing race and health equity, aligning to the social determinants of health, and prioritizing solutions for unsheltered homelessness. Systems measures of reducing the average length of stay people have unhoused, unsheltered, sheltered, and reducing returns to homelessness. And the cross-cutting partnership with ASU’s Action Nexus on Housing and Homelessness that brings capacity to interventions, evaluation, and incubating of ideas.

This conversation gained traction over the course of 2022, and we will have exciting news soon about an investment to help us launch some of the ideas HSC has for addressing unsheltered homelessness.

So, while tonight my white board is blank, tomorrow it will start to fill with strategies and tactics, maybe timelines, to paint a picture of what we can accomplish in 2023. A plan/white paper will emerge that we will share, because it takes everyone to achieve big audacious goals. The need is great. Homelessness is solvable, Housing for all is possible. HSC has a vision. We hope you will join us in implementing against the bell curve!

Happy New Year.

About the Human Services Campus

Founded in 2005, the Human Services Campus is a collaborative force of partner organizations united on one campus to end homelessness. Located just west of downtown Phoenix, 16 independent agencies on the Campus see nearly 1,000 individuals every day, offering a holistic range of client services including: reunification with family and friends; mental, physical and dental health; shelter; employment; meals; legal services and housing. Having all of these resources in one location with intra-agency communications makes it more feasible to provide a customized engagement for each client to help end their homelessness. For more information, visit

Share This