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

Seizing the Moment: Partnering to End Youth Homelessness


Funders Together was thrilled to attend the True Color's Fund's first Forty to None Summit this week, where we talked about philanthropy's role in ending LGBTQ youth homelessness.  

This week, the True Colors Fund hosted its first Forty to None Summit, which brings people from across the country to talk about ending youth homelessness, especially for LGBTQ young people. I started off a TED-style talk about philanthropy’s role in ending youth homelessness with a video about elephant toothpaste. That’s right—elephant toothpaste. Take a look at this clip to see what I’m talking about:

You’re probably wondering why I’d start off a talk on youth homelessness with a science experiment about catalytic reactions. Well, the simple fact is philanthropy must take on the role of ‘catalyst’ in ending all forms of homelessness. We believe that by taking philanthropy’s resources (our ‘chemical’ if you will) and adding it to the bigger substance (the amazing network of partners, providers, and the experiences of homeless youth everywhere) we can have a profound, tangible, and lasting effect on ending homelessness for our young people.

Too many young people in our nation are homeless, an issue that, sadly, has not been given the attention it deserves. While we don’t know the exact number, we do know that any number over zero is too many.

Youth homelessness persists, but not because we don’t care. In traveling to communities around the country, it’s clear that people, and funders, care deeply about youth. Everyone at the Forty to None Summit—the many people, organizations, and government representatives care, too. But caring, while vital, is only half the battle. Caring is not enough. Doing what makes us feel good is not enough.

If we are to make a difference, caring must demonstrate itself through action. We must do what works, what is effective. Philanthropy certainly has put some money towards ending youth homelessness, yet historically the money we have spent has been focused on individual programs. The problem with this is that many programs are not connected to one another, serving only a portion of the youth out there, and many times aren’t inclusive or sensitive to the needs or unique identities of youth, including LGBTQ youth.

So where does that leave us now? It’s clear that we are in a moment of time with real opportunity. We are at a Kairos moment – “Kairos” being a Greek word which means “the opportune moment” when everything aligns and comes together. It is the moment when that thread can go through the needle, when all the fibers weave together and squeeze through what has seemed to be an intractable barrier. We are at a Kairos moment in youth homelessness, and we must all seize this moment.

Philanthropy can and must seize this moment and be true catalysts by working together. We must take our philanthropic chemical and put it into the beaker to help create a profound effect.

The ways we can do this are many, but our impact will be most profound if we focus on advocacy, data, systems change, inclusivity, and relationship-building.

  • Advocacy: We must use our voice to call for effective policies, increased funding, and the use of evidence based practices. If we can’t put our mouth where our money is, then we must fund those organizations that can advocate, like the National Network for Youth, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and True Colors Fund.

  • Data: We don’t often think of data, funding, or chemical reactions as ‘sexy’ topics, but all of these are incredibly vital. When you stop and think about it, we’re not talking about facts and figures – data stands for real people, for our youth. Data represents who they are, why they’re homeless, and how we can help them.

  • Beyond Programs to Systems: We must continue to look beyond excellent programs to enable the larger system. We must build the system’s capacity to support our young people. We must ensure that programs are connected, not only to one another, but to other resources and systems that will help our youth.

  • Inclusivity: We must ensure that the services, programs and systems we support are inclusive and sensitive to all of our youth. That means listening to the voice of our youth. We must support organizations like the True Colors Fund – an organization that has brought to light the fact that up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. They, too, have taken action by working with programs and communities to build solutions that are sensitive and inclusive.

  • Relationship-building: Finally – and perhaps most importantly – philanthropy can help build relationships. As important as funding, data and best practices are, it is in the building of relationships –with other funders, with government, with service providers, with advocates, and with youth – that philanthropy will have the most powerful, solutions-based impact.

fys_logo.pngFor these reasons, Funders Together is launching a new initiative called Foundations for Youth Success, a national philanthropic initiative focused on the funders’ role in ending youth homelessness. The cornerstone of this initiative will be a community of practice, through which funders will share and build knowledge about best practices and effective solutions for our young people.

The Forty to None Summit was truly inspirational—and Funders Together would like to personally thank Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Barbaris, Gregory Lewis, Jama Shelton, and the entire True Colors Fund team for the work that they do. True Colors Fund continues to shine a light on the important issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness, and how important it is for all of us, including philanthropy, to be aware, to be sensitive, and to be inclusive. We look forward to our continued partnership.

Now is the time, now is our Kairos moment to come together: providers, government, researchers, advocates, and especially our youth. Let’s seize this moment so that never again do we have to see another of our young men and women, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, or friends and neighbors without a safe and nurturing home of their own.

anne.portrait.jpgAs 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. Find her at @FTEHAM.



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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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