At Funders Together, we make it a goal to share the work of funders across the country so you can learn what's working and adapt these strategies to your own community. One way we do that is through our Featured Members. Some are featured because of their innovative grantmaking. Others are featured because they are making connections and bringing new people into the conversation about ending and preventing homelessness. Still others are featured because they are challenging the very systems that allow homelessness to persist. In each case, our Featured Members are an integral part of the solution to homelessness.
Founded in 1959, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the country. Located in Owings Mills, Maryland, outside of Baltimore, the Foundation focuses on granting in both the U.S. and Israel to nonprofits that serve low-income and vulnerable populations. We spoke with Amy Kleine, Program Director, Basic Human Needs & Health, about the Foundation's grantmaking strategies around homelessness, housing, and exciting investments in employment through a social enterprise restaurant.
1. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Could you explain a little bit about what the Weinberg Foundation does and in what capacity it is involved in homelessness?
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is one of the largest private charitable foundations in the United States. The Foundation provides approximately $100 million in annual grants to nonprofits that provide direct services to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families, primarily in the U.S. and Israel. Grants are focused on meeting basic needs and enhancing an individual’s ability to meet those needs.
The Foundation awards grants through seven areas of giving, the two largest being Older Adults and Workforce Development. Other program areas, in order of annual funding goals, include Education, General Community Support, Disabilities, Basic Human Needs & Health, and Veterans.
While the Foundation does fund nationally, particularly involving capital grants, most of its grantmaking is focused within priority communities: Maryland (statewide), Northeastern Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Greater Chicago/Illinois, and Israel. Most of these areas are also Foundation “hometowns” which represent deep, personal ties to the life and legacy of Harry Weinberg. Demonstrating the Foundation’s commitment to these priority communities, a significant portion of the Weinberg Foundation’s total grants distribution each year remains within Maryland. Of the roughly $30 million granted statewide, most of the funding is directed to the greater Baltimore area, supporting multi-service organizations that provide a range of high-quality services to those in need.
Efforts to make homelessness rare and brief, and to support those who are experiencing homelessness, cut across many of the Foundation’s program areas. If a nonprofit’s primary focus is on homelessness, the grant request would fall under Basic Human Needs & Health. The Weinberg Foundation has invested more than $15 million in the past three years in homelessness initiatives, mostly in the form of capital grants for new permanent supportive housing (PSH).
The Foundation is funding two new projects in Baltimore City, which are particularly exciting. One will create 12 PSH units; the other will add 22 units. Another recent grant that aligns with this strategy involves Light House, a homeless prevention support center. This grant will support construction of a social enterprise restaurant. This is an appealing project because it combines housing in the form of four PSH apartments, culinary training through their Building Employment Success Training (B.E.S.T.), and job creation by allowing graduates to work at the Light House Bistro.
In addition to grantmaking, since 2009 I have served on Baltimore’s Continuum of Care (CoC) board (overseeing homeless services). Serving on the CoC board has also complemented the Foundation’s grantmaking decisions, as it helps to provide greater organizational understanding of the context of this work, as well as broader policy context, gaps that private funders need to fill, and what providers are facing on the front lines.
2. The Foundation has been very active in the housing sector, specifically in working with the state of Maryland to provide affordable housing for individuals with disabilities. Can you speak to your efforts around this as well as how you went about facilitating this public-private partnership?
The Foundation has continued its support of programs in Maryland and Illinois to provide deeply-affordable housing for people with disabilities. Initially funded in 2011, the Foundation will provide a total of $3 million in Maryland and Illinois to finance affordable, quality, independent, integrated housing opportunities for very low-income individuals with disabilities who meet certain eligibility criteria. This program provides persons with disabilities greater choice and independence in their daily lives.
While this highly successful program was developed under, and is administered through, the Foundation’s Disabilities area of giving, the concept of public-private partnerships can be applied to those working within the area of homelessness.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the Foundation provides a grant to the project developer. This grant, which reduces the developer’s debt, allows the developer to rent a certain number of units specifically for people with disabilities who receive either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Supplemental Security Disability Income (SSDI) from Social Security. The rent for these apartments is set at 15-30% of area median income (AMI), in contrast to the 60% of AMI rentals generally paid by non-disabled, low-income people under other programs, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Through this partnership and approach, the Foundation has created 22 units in Maryland ranging in size from studios to two bedrooms. This program is especially appealing because apartments are leased at below-market rate for 30 years, making it less expensive than a voucher. To date, nonprofit developers have demonstrated more willingness to participate. Also, the program has been more attractive to developers when there is an additional mortgage involved, since the grant becomes instrumental in reducing their debt.
We have not used this strategy to create housing for formerly homeless households, but the same concept could be applied assuming there are services available. The approach was highlighted by the Technical Assistance Collaborative as a best practice.
3. This year, you will be providing over $99 million in grants! That is an amazing amount! Aside from large grants, you also have a small grants program. Can you talk about this program and also what types of initiatives, programs, or projects these funds have been distributed to?
The Weinberg Foundation’s Small Grants Program (SGP), formerly known as the Maryland Small Grants Program, has awarded more than $25 million grants since its inception in 2007.
The SGP allows smaller Maryland and Northeastern Pennsylvania nonprofits to apply for a grant–operating, program, or capital–of up to $50,000 for two years ($100,000 total). Unlike the Foundation’s standard grantmaking process, there is no deadline for grant requests and a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) is not required. Budget size is limited to $1 million or less, and an external financial review is required regardless of budget size. After two years of funding, organizations are required to take a year off from support before being eligible for an additional two years. After a total of four years of funding, organizations must shift to the regular grant process, including submitting an LOI.
Organizations must speak with the appropriate program team member to determine if their organization is eligible to apply for a Small Grant. This conversation will ensure that the proposal is a fit with Foundation guidelines and goals.
In terms of Basic Human Needs & Health, specifically, SGP requests should be limited to services and supports involving homelessness, food security, and health. Examples would include small shelter providers and organizations that focus on homelessness prevention or perhaps a hot meal and case management program.
4. You are doing workforce development efforts for both adults and youth/young adults. Can you tell us a little bit about these efforts and the grantmaking process behind them?
Within its Workforce Development portfolio, the Foundation seeks to fund organizations that provide job training and placement services. Specifically, the Foundation looks for programs with good placement and retention outcomes and which require a minimum of one year of follow-up tracking (although the Foundation prefers two years of tracking). Strong grantees have a solid relationship with employers in the area and are committed to helping clients find a career, not just a job.
Grantees under this priority may have clients who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, homelessness. The Foundation has identified very few programs that are well-equipped to serve this population and that produce good results. As such, the Foundation has intensified its search for workforce development programs, especially in the Baltimore area, that are successfully serving those experiencing homelessness. Baltimore is one of the five Connection Project sites through Heartland Alliance. As part of this project, the Foundation hopes to build on current momentum to develop more employment programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of those who are experiencing homelessness.
Federal funding for homelessness services may not cover employment programs, so organizations may have to partner with, or refer out to, a workforce organization. Another option is to secure private funding from a source with a demonstrated commitment to working with people with high barriers to employment.
Again, the Weinberg Foundation grant to Light House for its social enterprise restaurant is a good example of homelessness services that include job training, also attached to housing. The Light House program is expected to create more than 50 jobs in its first year. Through the Light House Bistro, the program should be self-sustaining, able to generate revenue that will be reinvested and provide jobs for graduates. It is a smart, community investment, which the Foundation hopes will spur similarly innovative ideas.
5. What would you consider one of your most challenging efforts? What made it so challenging and what lessons were learned?
Proactive grantmaking is much more challenging, strategically, than reactive grantmaking. Historically, the Foundation has taken a reactive approach - the Foundation receives a grant request and, pending review, the grant is awarded or declined. Recently, however, the Foundation has had the opportunity to be more proactive, initiating larger projects with community partners.
In 2014, for example, we asked our board to consider making bigger investments into family homelessness. We agreed to grant up to $1.5 million to expand rapid re-housing (RRH) in Baltimore and selected a partner who had been doing RRH on a smaller scale. Through our grants, there was an increase in the number of families served from 27 to 65 annually, a program evaluator was hired, and there was additional funding for an employment specialists and housing navigator. Our partner now has a team of five working with families being served. To accomplish this, we partnered with fellow FTEH members: the local United Way, United Way of Central Maryland and a fellow foundation in the Baltimore area, The Abell Foundation. The project is now in its 3rd year and we are still seeing good results from our initial investment. In fact, the program was just awarded HUD Continuum of Care funds to further expand to serve 110 families annually.
This was a pivot in the way we did grantmaking and the Foundation is very proud of this work, especially as we were able to have a large impact locally.
6. Advocacy can seem a bit untouchable or unobtainable to many funders. What role does advocacy play at the Weinberg Foundation? Do you have any insight on successful strategy or challenges to be aware of when participating in advocacy?
The Weinberg Foundation has a charter restriction that strictly prohibits, among other things, advocacy. If an organization presents itself primarily in that way, a grant is not possible. However, if advocacy is only one part of an organization’s mission and work, the Foundation may be able to provide a grant with the stipulation that none of the funding be used in connection with the advocacy program.
Of course, the Foundation’s grantees use their experience to inform policy makers. If, for example, the Foundation funds an evaluation for a given program, the grantee (service provider) may present those results to policy makers. The Foundation also is willing to serve as a knowledge resource for policy makers, educating them on what programs or approaches have worked, as well as what has not worked, within the Foundation’s various areas of giving.
7. What advice would you offer to other foundations who are just starting to focus on homelessness – or maybe to foundations that are just starting out with any kind of grantmaking? Where can they start?
Just as my involvement with Baltimore’s Continuum of Care (CoC) board has complemented the Foundation’s consideration of grants within this area, I would encourage foundations to look beyond their role as funder, and seek out opportunities to engage as an active participant in the community discussion.
It is also important to understand that philanthropy dollars, while significant, are only part of the equation for meaningful results and change. Funders and other community stakeholders—within philanthropy, the public sector, and even the private sector—must work together as partners in focusing on certain aspects of the push to make homelessness rare and brief. Goals must be clearly, specifically defined and stated. Once that conversation begins, however, it is more than likely that others in the community will express similar goals and might possibly have already begun working toward success. Find those champions and connect with them.
8. How can groups like Funders Together support the work of foundations like yours?
Moving forward, Funders Together can provide valuable support as a source of information, particularly as it pertains to policy and advocacy. This is especially true for those who are not looped into these specific issues. Real-time knowledge in these areas can only help funders within the area of homelessness services better navigate change, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.
Speaking for the Weinberg Foundation, Funders Together has been beneficial in several ways including highlighting best practices, hosting meaningful events, and providing a network of colleagues who represent a tremendous resource of knowledge and experience.
Interested in past featured member profiles? Check out our archive here.
In order to end and prevent homelessness, we need adequate and affordable housing as well as appropriate income and employment opportunities. We must also work to prevent the next generation of homelessness by creating opportunities for our young people to live successfully in our communities.
We support Opening Doors, the Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
1. To end homelessness, start with a home.
For families and individuals living in deep poverty, housing costs are the single most expensive item in the household budget. Nearly all pay more than half of their incomes for rent. This leaves limited resources available for food, clothing, child care, and other essentials. The loss of a job, an unexpected illness, or a family crisis can all too easily push a family into homelessness. Far too many children are sleeping in shelters.
At the federal, state, and local levels, we call for an aggressive, bipartisan push by government, working in tandem with the private sector, to:
Make rental homes affordable to more people by expanding the supply of rental housing subsidies. Rental assistance is a cost-effective, evidenced-based practice that is highly effective in reducing homelessness. It is the fastest way to make homes affordable to the greatest number of people with the lowest incomes. Currently, only one in four households eligible for rental assistance actually receives it.
Expand the supply of affordable rental homes by directing low-cost capital resources to the production and preservation of decent, safe rental housing. Pair capital investments with rental subsidies to ensure housing units are within the reach of households most vulnerable to homelessness. At the federal level, fully fund the National Housing Trust Fund and preserve the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
Increase access to private market and public housing rental units by people experiencing homelessness and people with disabilities. Create unit set-asides within state- or city-financed multifamily housing.
Expand supportive housing options by increasing funding for services. The most successful intervention for ending and preventing chronic homelessness is linking housing to appropriate support services. Supportive housing ends the cycle of frequent and inappropriate use of expensive social supports and institutional care that people with complex needs cannot break while homeless.
2. Open pathways to meaningful and stable employment to prevent homelessness
We believe that our communities are stronger when everyone who wants to work can find a job. To this end, we must broaden opportunities for jobs, job training, and income growth so that people who are facing high barriers to employment, including people who have experienced homelessness, can effectively participate in the labor market.
We call for aggressive efforts by government at the federal, state, and local levels, working in tandem with the private sector, to:
Level the playing field by creating and adopting performance measures, under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), to Workforce Boards aimed at effectively serving clients with high barriers to work.
Increase the capacity of local workforce systems and other systems to effectively respond to the diverse work histories, education levels, and personal circumstances that people with high barriers to work present, so that they are connected to a spectrum of career pathways, training, and pre-training opportunities. Improve the way education, job readiness, training, placement, private employers, and support organizations work together to reduce barriers to employment for low-skilled workers. Share and disseminate best practices and successful programs, and create stronger connections between workforce systems and homeless service systems to reduce barriers to accessing employment services.
- Strengthen social enterprises that are successful in helping people who have experienced homelessness prepare for, find, and keep decent paying jobs within thriving industries.
3. Prevent a new generation from becoming homeless.
In every community, young people run away from home, are kicked out, exit the juvenile justice system with nowhere to go, become orphans, and/or exit the child welfare system with no supports to enable successful transitions to adulthood.
We call for action at the federal and state levels to:
Extend foster care to age 21 or beyond in all states, and ensure that all young people aging out of care have the opportunity to maintain safe housing until age 21 and beyond. Effectively use the period from age 18-21 to support young people in developing permanent relationships, pursuing educational and employment opportunities, securing housing, and developing skills to prepare them to live successfully in the community once they leave care.
- Reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which provides three different grants to communities so they can reach out to homeless youth on the streets and provide emergency housing with crisis intervention, basic life necessities, family interventions, and when necessary, longer-term housing options, including Maternity Group Homes.
If you have any questions about our 2015 Policy Platform, please contact Anne Miskey.
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This series of recorded presentations focuses on family homelessness -- what we know about effective strategies and systemic approaches to ending it, and especially the key roles of philanthropy in support the systems changes needed to end family homelessness. Each of these presentations also has an accompanying written brief.
Instead of setting a specific time for you to tune into a webinar, this series is designed for you to view at your own pace in 20 minutes or less.
We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future materials. Please contact us with your ideas.
From Family Homeless Programs to a Crisis Response System
Click here to read the brief.
For further information on this topic, we also suggest:
- Funders Together briefs and other resources for funders
- US Interagency Council on Homelessness' Family Connection
- National Alliance to End Homelessness resources on families
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|1501 Pacific Avenue, Ste 400
Tacoma, WA 98402
Director of Community Assessment and Investment
United Way of Pierce County is committed to making measurable improvements in the lives of people in our community.
Our mission is best executed when we identify critical issues and then use your gift to fund a combination of programs and initiatives to best address those issues.
- Health care
- Affordable housing
- Education about homelessness
- Emergency shelter
- Funding advocacy
- Permanent supportive housing
- Public policy/systems change
- Rapid re-housing
- Supportive services
- Transitional housing
- Workforce development
Twenty years ago, dilapidated, high-crime public housing developments populated by impoverished, female-headed households were a powerful symbol of the failures of U.S. social welfare policy. HOPE VI was a key element of a bold effort to transform these public housing communities and demonstrate that housing programs could produce good results for residents and communities. The program provided grants to housing authorities to replace their most distressed developments—those with high crime rates, serious physical decay, and obsolete structures—with new, mixed-income, mixed-tenure communities. In a departure from earlier efforts to “rehabilitate” public housing, HOPE VI sought to move beyond “bricks and mortar” and provided funding for supportive services for residents to help them move toward self-sufficiency and improve their life circumstances.
There is no question that HOPE VI has changed the face of public housing—hundreds of those dilapidated structures have been replaced with attractive new developments, and the program has sparked innovations in financing and management. However, the program has not been a solution for the most vulnerable families—those “hard to house” families with multiple, complex problems that make them ineligible for mixed-income housing or unable to cope with the challenges of negotiating the private market with a Housing Choice Voucher. In many U.S. cities, public housing has served as the housing of last resort for decades, with the poorest and least desirable tenants warehoused in the worst developments. As these developments have been demolished, vulnerable families have often simply been moved from one distressed development to another, and with a concentration of extremely troubled families and a lack of adequate supportive services, these new developments have the potential to become even worse environments than those from where these families started.
This report provides an overview of the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration and its progress to date, and then focus on one of the major challenges for providers serving vulnerable families: identifying which clients require the full intensive services, and which would benefit from a different approach.
Health care and housing are closely intertwined and access to both is necessary for ending homelessness. This report looks at the Vulnerability Index as a way to assess the crisis in the Capitol Region of Connecticut. In order to be categorized as “vulnerable” an individual must have been homeless for at least six months and self identify as having one or more of the eight health risk factors.
In this report, Journey Home used the Vulnerability Index to identify and create a list of those who have been homeless the longest and are most at risk of mortality. Results from the Vulnerability Index can be used to estimate the healthcare resources spent on those surveyed.
UPDATE: The National Housing Trust Fund will be funded! Read more.
For millions, even an affordable rental apartment is still inaccessible in the United States.
Established by state, county, or city governments, housing trust funds provide dedicated sources of funding that support the creation and preservation of affordable housing. These funds are becoming more popular, in part because the model is flexible and revenue streams are not tied to annual budget allocations, ensuring a sustained and focused effort to make housing accessible. They are also effective, bringing in millions of dollars for affordable housing that will be here for years to come.
Find sample materials that can jumpstart a discussion about housing trust funds in your area.
Learn more about the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.