A recap of our 2015 Funders Institute
Bridging the Gap: The Strategic Role of Philanthropy in Ending Homelessness
This year’s Funders Institute, held in conjunction with the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness, marked the 3rd annual event hosted by Funders Together. Nearly 70 funders, government and national partners, and advocates convened to focus on the strategic role philanthropy plays in ending homelessness. The day-long event featured energetic speakers, a panel focused on the connection between housing and employment and moving “Lived Experience” testimonials.
The event was also a time to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Funders Together. Janice Elliott of the Melville Charitable Trust and Funders Together Executive Director Anne Miskey took the attendees back in time to a frigid, snowy day as the founders were stranded in a Chicago airport and there framed the groundwork for what became Funders Together to End Homelessness.
What many attendees said were the most powerful presentations included two individuals providing very personal looks at what it is like to experience homelessness; one as a veteran and one as a youth. George Forbes, a veteran and single father of two, explained that how at times, you can do everything right and still become homelessness. Rivianna Hyatt, a woman who experienced homelessness on and off since the age of 6, reminded the attendees that everyone has needed help at one point in time and how our culture often distrusts those in her situation making it difficult to receive help. Their impactful testimonials framed discussions throughout the day as they were a face for the many we seek to support.
Leslie Perkul of Sister of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and Katie Hong of the Raikes Foundation, stepped to the podium to discuss what each had learned working in not-for-profit organizations that address homelessness. Both focused on how real people are at the center of funding. Matthew Doherty of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness shared their views on the current state of ending homelessness and strategic movements in place, such an Opening Doors and Rapid Re-Housing programs.
We believe that at the core of ending homelessness is housing, but we also believe that bridging into employment initiatives can ensure success. Moderated by Martha Toll of the Butler Family Fund, a panel focused on best practices and programs in place that expand and connect housing and employment. Amy Rynell of Heartland Alliance, Becca Allen of the Melville Charitable Trust and Sue Beaton, The Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, captivated the audience by stressing that most of those experiencing homelessness are either currently working or want to work and focusing on employment in living wage jobs after stabilizing housing is essential to ending homelessness.
Special guest Nicole Malachowski, Executive Director of Joining Forces, stopped by the event and spoke about the work Joining Forces and the Administration are doing to address and end veteran homelessness. She pointed out how it is a national security issue as it prevents from recruiting and training the best possible solider if the individual does not have access to adequate and stable housing before and/or after their service. Nicole encouraged the crowd to have the difficult conversations and be vulnerable when talking about what is truly needed to make a difference and move the needle forward.
The event ended with a Funders Acting Boldly (FAB) Talk by the Board Chair of Funders Together, David Wertheimer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He addressed the crowd with a call to action of taking risks as philanthropic organizations. “Those experiencing homelessness want what we all want: social capital,” he said. As funders we should look to support causes that focus on providing that even if it means risking failure.
David’s FAB Talk was the perfect conclusion to an eventful day. Bridging the gap between initiatives and programs we know work and being prepared to take risks as funders will progress us towards the end goal of eliminating homelessness.
Want to see more from the event? Check out photos from the event below or the #FTEH15 conversation that happened on social media in our 2015 Funders Institute Storify.
Are you interested in being involved in next year's Funders Institute? Contact us for more information.