Homelessness spending needs to remain a priority.
Economic uncertainty, severe government spending cuts, and the gyrations of the stock market have left many of us in the philanthropic sector a bit jittery about both our payout projections and our funding priorities for the months ahead. It hasn’t been an easy ride for any of us.
But the ride has been infinitely more challenging for those experiencing the front end of the recession and the slow climb toward recovery. Many of the people who were hanging by a thin economic thread at the start of these turbulent times have fallen into joblessness, homelessness, and a chasm of instability that government spending cuts have left impossible to close.
Homelessness Spending Needs to Remain a Priority
Homelessness-always a lagging indicator in economic hard times-needs to remain a priority for both government and philanthropic sector spending as the nation lurches forward. I can think of at least two reasons why this is a good time for both government and philanthropy to work together and engage more effectively in efforts that can end homelessness.
First, the issue of homelessness has, over time, proven itself to be among the most non-partisan of issues. Wherever you stand on the current political spectrum, homelessness can easily be highlighted to our leaders on both the right and the left as a national travesty and a priority for our nation to address.
Second, thanks to important research that has been completed over the last 5-10 years, we now know what we need to do-and what we need to fund-to finally end, rather than continually manage, homelessness. Support for these promising practices should become a mantra for our sector as we prioritize our limited, but catalytically significant, resources.
Funding what works to end homelessness means we must prioritize our support of community-driven endeavors that include: prevention and diversion, coordinated entry, permanent supportive housing, and rapid-re-housing. Beyond reviewing the resources available on the Funders Together website (which is undergoing some updating), I also encourage visits to the websites of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and others who provide the hard evidence of what works, and of the efficiency and effectiveness of what we can do when we put our limited resources to their best possible uses.
As U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia has encouraged us, our sector should be the headlights-not the taillights-for these efforts. I can’t imagine a better use of our sector’s voice and resources than pointing the way toward the best long-term solutions to homelessness.
David Wertheimer is the Deputy Director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, as well as the Board Chair of Funders Together to End Homelessness.