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Opening Doors Aligns Efforts to Prevent and End Homelessness

This week is the first anniversary of Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

This week is the first anniversary of Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. To mark the occasion, two members of the Funders Together to End Homelessness Board were invited to participate in a webinar hosted by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), highlighting both what has been working in the plan and where improvement is needed. More than 500 people accessed the conference call, engaging in a candid conversation about the first year of implementation of Opening Doors.

Barbara Poppe, executive director of USICH, moderated a panel of representatives from the federal government and stakeholders from across the country. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who chairs USICH, pointed out the significance of Opening Doors as the federal government’s first plan to prevent and end homelessness. She reaffirmed the need for strong collaboration among the federal agencies; federal, state and local governments; and nonprofits to make the plan a reality.

Derek Douglas, special assistant to the president for urban affairs, reiterated President Obama’s commitment to the goals of Opening Doors, demonstrated through a proposed 23% increase for homeless programs in the 2012 budget. A panel of stakeholders then shared their perspectives on national and local work to prevent and end homelessness. The speakers touched upon national advocacy, chronic homelessness, veteran homelessness, family homelessness and youth homelessness.

Funders Together was represented by board members David Wertheimer, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Leslie Strnisha, of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. We were asked to speak to the following question: To assist nationwide efforts to implement Opening Doors and achieve its goals, how can government and the public sector further engage the private sector and philanthropy? This question complements a primary goal for Funders Together: aligning philanthropy with the national plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Opening Doors presents a blueprint for this work. The plan assigns responsibility for preventing and ending homelessness across many systems, national and local, calling for a more efficient approach to allocating homelessness resources in local communities. As funders, even collectively, we know that our resources are only a fraction of the dollars spent on prevention and permanent housing solutions. Opening Doors provides opportunities for philanthropy to align funding in local communities in a way that will not only leverage limited dollars more efficiently, but also help realize the common goal and social imperative – preventing and ending homelessness. As one panelist remarked, we can only meet the national goals of ending homelessness if every community across the country meets this goal locally.

(Read Opening Doors)

Leslie_Strnisha.jpgAs Senior Program Director, Leslie Strnisha leads the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s program team to develop targeted, outcomes-based approaches for its grantmaking and non-grantmaking activities. 


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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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