Part of philanthropy’s responsibility to the most vulnerable in our society is to call on government―both elected officials and non-elected staff on both sides of the political aisle―to work in ways that are just, effective, and efficient.
Part of philanthropy’s responsibility to the most vulnerable in our society is to call on government―both elected officials and non-elected staff on both sides of the political aisle―to work in ways that are just, effective, and efficient. To this end, representatives from Funders Together and our partners at theNational Alliance met this summer with senior staff from various federal agencies to discuss homelessness in America.
Specifically, we met with Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Veterans Affairs (VA), the Domestic Policy Council (DPC), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about issues such as family, veterans, and youth homelessness. We spoke openly and honestly about what is working in communities across the country and ways that both the government and private sector could be more effective and efficient in helping those most vulnerable in our society. We spoke about the priorities and strengths of philanthropy and what we can bring to the table but also the need to work together with government to both share ideas and to leverage resources.
Our meetings with HUD focused on how both the public and private sectors can better target those who receive services to ensure that people get what they need to be successful – not more, not less. One specific example of this is the need for better targeting of HUD/VASH vouchers to reach those with the greatest needs. We also called upon HUD to continue its focus on and support of rapid re-housing and stressed the need for more timely data and their continued commitment to outcome-based funding.
HHS, largely as a result of work of one of our members, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently launched the $25 million Keeping Families Together federal notice of funding availability (NOFA). This initiative is a true public/private partnership with funds coming from both the federal government and from philanthropy. During our meeting we were able to discuss additional opportunities to support families and youth by connecting with and using mainstream services such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and the Affordable Care Act.
Youth homelessness is an area of growing concern and one which both HUD and HHS see as a real priority. There was much discussion with both departments on ways philanthropy, government, and communities can help identify and support young men and women who find themselves without a home.
In all of our meetings, including those with the OMB, VA and the DPC, we clearly stated our belief that the federal government is on the right track. Through the work of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the release of Opening Doors and the HEARTH Act―with its focus on outcomes, data, and best practices―communities have been given a roadmap that can move them toward ending rather than managing homelessness. Of course, government must stay the course, working across agencies and departments and collaborating with the private sector to ensure communities receive the support they need to be successful.
It is easy to be cynical about government; to call it ineffective and inefficient. But for those of us who spent time this summer meeting with government staff who really get it―who understand what it will take and who are committed to making it happen ―it made us believe more than ever that we can do this. We can end homelessness, together.
As Executive Director of Funders Together, Anne brings years of expertise in both the corporate and not-for-profit sector. She is passionate about promoting the philanthropic community’s catalytic role in ending homelessness, working with government to create public-private partnerships, and advocating for funding and policies which end, rather than manage, homelessness.