A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

2018 Funders Forum

The 2018 Funders Forum was held in Los Angeles in conjunction with the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Seventy individuals representing 34 different foundations and United Ways joined us as we explored philanthropy’s role in preventing and ending family and youth homelessness.


Across the country, funders are working to end homelessness for families, and for youth and young adults. As we work to implement best practices and identify innovative and effective solutions, we must look at the system as a whole and ask ourselves, “Can we really end homelessness for families or for youth and young adults without considering larger issues such as racial equity?”

At this year's Funders Forum, funders attended and connected with peers working to end homelessness in their communities and nationally. We heard from communities and funders who are looking at things differently and addressing systemic issues and intersections that are key to our success in ultimately ending homelessness for everyone.

We also had even more opportunities for discussion and sharing, and concrete ideas for you to turn conversations to action in your own work through our Interactive Table Topics in the afternoon in which attendees were able to dive deeper and make stronger connections on various topics.

As we convened in Los Angeles, we partnered with Funders Together Los Angeles and heard about how they have been coming together for years to learn about and implement best practices.

Below are key takeaways, videos, and resources that correspond with conversations and updates given at the Forum.


Morning Keynote - Building the Foundation for Economic Mobility

Watch Nisha's keynote here.

nisha_patel.jpgNisha Patel is the Executive Director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership is a nonpartisan group of leaders, experts, and practitioners working to identify promising interventions to make real, lasting progress against persistent poverty in America.

Patel has nearly two decades of experience leading, developing, and implementing initiatives to increase economic opportunities for low-income families. She served in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Family Assistance within the US Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing a $17 billion annual portfolio of federal grants, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Patel was previously deputy director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, where she led national efforts to expand two-generation approaches to improve outcomes for children and their parents. Before that, Patel was a program officer in the US Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a portfolio focused on increasing postsecondary success through community partnerships and policy development, as well as special initiatives.

Patel previously held positions as director of programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She has also been an adjunct professor at the George Washington University.


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Feedback Session

Several leaders from the Department of Housing and Urban Development visited this year's Forum to specifically hear from funders about what's working in communities and where challenges were, as well as what trends funders are seeing in this work. 

Jemine A. Bryon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs

Cynthia Campbell, Director,Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation

Matthew Doherty, Executive Director, USICH

Matthew Hunter, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Field Policy and Management

Neal Rackleff, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development

Jimmy Stracner, Regional Administrator

Youth Homelessness Update

Megan Gibbard Kline, Director, A Way Home America

A Way Home America Community Dashboards
State of the Movement Presentation

USICH Update

Matthew Doherty, Executive Director, USICH

Learn. Share. Act: Interactive Table Topics

Learn from your peers. Share your experiences. Make a plan to Act! Throughout the afternoon, funders chose two conversations to join and take a deeper dive into. Each table included experts that will jumpstarted the conversation before opening discussion to the group.

Data on Family HomelessnessWhat we know and what we need to know about families experiencing homelessness. This conversation will include recent findings from an evaluation of a family homelessness initiative in the Northwest. 

Experts: Kollin Min, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AnniePennucci, Building Changes and Debra Rog, Westat

All Home King County System Performance Dashboard

Key Takeaways:
-- Building Changes’ Data-Driven Culture Initiative (DDCI) supports King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties in solidifying a practice that makes ongoing use of data a hallmark of how the counties operate their family homelessness response systems
-- DDCI involves both technical and adaptive change. Helped the counties obtain the skills and tools to perform data compilation, cleaning, analysis, and display. Specific tools include a cloud server, SQL programming, and Tableau software for visualization. Also have provided staff training and technical assistance around data analysis, interpretation, communication, and even data literacy for leadership.
-- On the adaptive side, DDCI used an iterative and collaborative process to encourage and embed the use of data in decision-making. Started with ensuring that data quality improves largely through use and feedback loops—quality improves only when people are looking at it and asking questions of it.
-- Found that clear communication and transparency—putting data out onto a public website—can be powerful in improving quality and also expanding the appetite among policymakers, voters, taxpayers, the media, and others for ongoing and more detailed data to assess system performance and identify areas for improvement.

Data on Youth HomelessnessWhat we know and what we need to know about youth experiencing homelessness. This conversation will include information from Voices of Youth Count.

Expert: Matt Morton, Research Fellow, Chapin Hall - Voices of Youth Count

Key Takeaways:
-- Funders underscored the value of investments like those made in Voices of Youth Count to produce data that kind underscore disproportionalities and strategic opportunities for investment and intervention.
-- Some funders noted the importance of funding not just in programs but in leadership to carry this work strategically over time.
-- Some funders discussed the usefulness of repeated data on youth homelessness and outcomes over time. Relatedly, the ability to test interventions and system changes dynamically with this kind of data to determine what actions can have population-level effects. This sort of information could help funders make better decisions about investments that can have impact.
-- The Voices of Youth Count is a groundbreaking research study of youth homelessness in the U.S. It includes research to impact briefs to help disseminate information that should help evidence to decision making. 
-- 1 in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25 endures some form of homelessness in a year. 1 in 30 adolescent minors ages 13 to 17 endures some form of homelessness.
-- Certain groups have compound risk – youth with less than a high school diploma or GED, LGBTQ youth, low income households, Hispanic, African-American youth, and unmarried parenting youth.
-- The research shows that strategies to end youth homelessness need to be centered on high-risk populations and sensitized to trauma and adversities faced by youth experiencing homelessness.

Education and HomelessnessHow do housing instability and homelessness affect education outcomes? How do we work with the education system to prevent homelessness and better serve students experiencing homelessness?

Experts: Casey Trupin, Program Officer, Raikes Foundation and Nicole Rodriguez Leach, Deutsche Bank Foundation

Hidden in Plain Sight report
Education Leads Home: A National Campaign Building a Stronger Future for Homeless Students
Invisible Million
When School is Your Home
Educational Opportunity for Homeless Students

Key Takeaways:
-- Students homelessness is rising. We don't know if that is because there are more students experiencing homelessness or because we're doing better identification.
-- Education data on homelessness can be hyper localized!
--Compared to their housed peers, homeless students are more likely:
   - To be held back from grade to grade
   - To have poor attendance or be chronically absent
   - To fail courses
   - To have disciplinary issues
   - And ultimately, to drop out of school
-- Key partners for funders: school district homeless liaisons, local service providers working with school liaisons, faith based organizations, housing agencies

Preventing Homelessness - What does prevention mean? What is philanthropy's role in prevention? Learn about nation-wide prevention models and pilot programs being launched in communities ready to take the next step.

Expert: Barbara Poppe, Barbara Poppe and Associates 

Eviction and Homelessness Prevention: Tips for Philanthropy
Eviction and Homelessness Prevention Best and Promising Practices

Key Takeaways:
-- There needs to be a functional homeless crisis response system first; a community needs to demonstrate that they know how to triage and respond before they can look up and work on prevention.
-- If you have a community with a high functioning crisis response system (effective at diversion, targeting/matching interventions, with mostly successful exits to stable housing) that has demonstrated results (low unsheltered and declining annual PIT count) then housing stability is the primary goal of homelessness prevention. This is what sets it apart from an antipoverty strategy.
-- Philanthropy’s role in prevention is to think strategically and then pilot. Engage the public sector at the beginning as their initial buy in and input will help to scale up.

Philanthropy's Role in Building Public WillHow can philanthropy help build public will to prevent and end homelessness?

Experts: Alastair Gee, Homelessness Editor, Guardian News & Media, Julie Patiño, Director of Basic Human Needs, The Denver Foundation, and Chris Ko, United Way of Greater Los Angeles 

Developing and Passing Proposition HHH and Measure H: How It Happened and Lessons Learned

Key Takeaways:
-- Messaging matters!
          - Invest in working with a communications firm who understands issues, can do focus groups, and poll public. It’s a large (maybe largest) expense but worth the cost.
          - Dependent on audience and who delivers the message.
          - Make it personal. Statistics may be powerful, but making the stories human resonates best with public and moves               people.
-- Speak to the “moveable middle”
          - Public will building campaigns aren’t going to change the minds of people too far on one side or the other so focus on those in the middle who you can move with your stories and messaging
-- Work with the media
          - Educate the media and work with them which allows you to advance the messages by working in tandem and having more control over the narrative
          - Explore opportunities such as writing op-eds, purchasing ad space, and funding media ventures to dive deeper into homelessness issues and stories

Building a Funder NetworkJoin leaders from funders networks across the country to discuss how and why they created a funders networks in their communities and what they're doing now.

Experts: Rosa Benitez, Weingart Foundation, Funders Together Los Angeles and Jean Sazevich, Director, Heading Home Minnesota Funders Collaborative

Building a Funder Network 101 
Home For Good 

Key Takeaways:
-- Network building = relationship building. 
           - Building a successful network takes a lot of time and energy. 
           - FTEH LA started each meeting with an icebreaker question that had nothing to do with work in order to get folk in the room to see each other as human. 
-- For FTEH LA, something that helped them be successful was identifying an entity that had content knowledge.
-- FTEH LA: No matter how much money a partner contributes, everyone has an equal voice and vote.

Building the Foundation for Economic Mobility - Continue the conversation with our morning keynote speaker around building economic mobility and how it will help us end homelessness.

Expert: Nisha Patel, US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute 

Overview video of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty
Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty? 

National Alliance to End Homelessness Update

Nan Roman, President & CEO, National Alliance to End Homelessness


Amanda Andere, CEO, Funders Together to End Homelessness


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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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