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

Funders Together and the November 6, 2012 Election

It’s troublesome that the issue of homelessness has maintained a comparatively low profile in this election season, regardless of which candidate or party is holding the microphone at any given point in time.

One of the remarkable things about the philanthropic sector is the diversity of political perspectives among the trustees and staff of foundations, corporate giving programs, and United Ways.  I have met and engaged with Democrats, Republicans, Green Party members, socialists, independents… You name it, you can pretty much find it in our ranks.

While we sometimes have different visions of what success looks like, and different perspectives on how we can get to a desired future, I have encountered no villains among us.  Every one of  my philanthropic colleagues appear passionate about improving the lives and experiences of the most vulnerable and fragile of our citizens.

That said, it’s troublesome that the issue of homelessness has maintained a comparatively low profile in this election season, regardless of which candidate or party is holding the microphone at any given point in time.  We’ve heard a lot about important issues like the economy, education, national debt, foreign policy, and fossil fuel dependence.  But we’ve not heard our national political candidates speak extensively and clearly about homelessness in the context of the campaign.

That’s where our sector’s voice can play a role.  While those of us who work in private foundations are precluded from what the law defines as lobbying, that doesn’t mean we can’t raise questions about the issues we feel represent some of the most important priorities facing this nation.

Many of us, through either our personal or professional lives, are in the position to interface with people who may be working on political campaigns or shaping policy platforms for candidates.  Perhaps we may even have contact with the candidates themselves at fundraisers or other political events.

Without raising specific pieces of legislation or discussing voter initiatives, it is fully within bounds to talk about the high priority we put on addressing the needs of those who are most at risk—or are already experiencing—homelessness.

It’s not likely that many people who are homeless will have the access to influential people that our sector has achieved.  That is, itself, one definition of disenfranchisement.  But we can help give voice to the needs and concerns of those who may, for now, have trouble getting their own voices into the hallways of power.

I encourage all of us in the philanthropic sector who care about homelessness to use our own voices to make known to those running for office at the local, state, and federal levels what is important to us.  Regardless of which party or candidates you support on November 6th, all of them—and all Americans—will benefit when they hear from us that ending homelessness must be a high priority for our nation.

David_Wertheimer_2012a.jpgDavid Wertheimer is the Deputy Director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, as well as the Board Chair of Funders Together to End Homelessness. Find him at @DavidWSeattle.



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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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