Initial Learnings from Foundation for Youth Success
Over the past two years, a group of dedicated funders have been coming together regularly to learn and share, with one important and common goal: identifying the funder’s role in ending youth homelessness. While it may seem like an audacious goal, on September 12th-14th, we joined together for our final Foundations for Youth Success (FYS) site-visit and took all of our learnings to do just that.
For our final visit, we traveled to Seattle, Washington. If you’re in the youth homelessness field, you know that Seattle is leading the country in their systems level work to end homelessness for youth and young adults (YYA). We took this incredible opportunity to learn about the inspiring work being done at the city, county, and state level and to hear from leaders and youth advocates about the work they are doing. These sessions were incredibly motivating as we moved into our final day of reflection and sharing and worked to determine what we wanted to pass on to our colleagues in the field.
We started our reflection by asking the group to share what they found most beneficial about this community of practice. Participants expressed a deeper appreciation of the impact philanthropy has in ending youth homelessness and seeing the power of convening around a single issue. Also acknowledged was the need for every community to have a coordinated response to youth homelessness (with funders as key partners!).
Our final conversation was focused on where we go from here and what we wanted to share with the field. Below are the five questions that framed our conversation and that will serve as guides as we begin to share our learnings with colleagues and partners around the country. Included are highlights from the conversation and key resources. Over these two years we have identified numerous resources and learnings that we hope to pass on. These reflections are just the beginning and we hope will intrigue you enough to stay tuned for additional resources.
1. Why should funders do advocacy and how can they be effective at the national, state, and local levels?
Highlights: You CAN do it! Advocacy is critical as we work to create systems that will end youth homelessness. You don’t have to be an expert to make an impact.
Key Resource: A Way Home American Transition Plan
2. What is the funders role in ending youth homelessness?
Highlights: Philanthropy is only part of the puzzle. However, funders have a unique and key role. Funders role includes asking questions, convening, make strategic investments (ex. leveraging government dollars), and building communications and awareness.
Key Resource: A Place to Call Home: Our Strategy for Solving Youth Homelessness, Raikes Foundation
3. What do funders need to know?
Highlights: Don’t act alone! Ask questions and get multiple perspectives. Learn what other funders are doing and understand the systems approach that is key to ending homelessness for youth and youth adults.
Key Resource: Lessons From Five Years of Systems-Focused Grantmaking in King County, Washington- Raikes Foundation
4. Why should this be a funding priority?
Highlights: Ending youth homelessness is prevention of adult homelessness and plays a key role in other areas including health and education.
Key Resource: The Economic Burden of Youth Experiencing Homelessness and the Financial Case for Investing in Interventions to Change Peoples’ Lives
5. What is our vision for a community that is ending youth homelessness?
Highlights: A community that will end youth homelessness must work as a system. Best practices are available and should be referenced and shared. Funders can help by identifying gaps and opportunities to catalyze current efforts.
Key Resource: USICH Framework to Youth Homelessness
Over the past two years, bringing together funders from across the country on this single issue, we have heard thoughtful and intentional dialogue, built strong relationships with passionate partners, and continued to build momentum towards ending youth homelessness. Now it’s our turn to share those learnings with you.
Resources will be coming out over the next few months, summarizing the learnings from four site visits to Boston, Toronto, Minneapolis, and Seattle, and numerous webinars focused on topics from foster care to juvenile justice. Stay tuned for more reflections and learnings from this group and learn how you can be an integral piece of the puzzle in ensuring that all youth and young adults have a safe place to call home and an opportunity to thrive.