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

Tested Techniques for Trying Times

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 Homelessnessthe 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_2012a.jpgDavid 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.

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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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