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

Why the Raikes Foundation is Excited to be Part of Foundations for Youth Success


Why joining a new community of practice can help funders end and prevent youth homelessness.

One of our top priorities at the Raikes Foundation is to support system-wide efforts to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness in King County, Washington. Although our funding and focus is local, we recently had the opportunity to participate in a national gathering spearheaded by Funders Together to design Foundations for Youth Success—a community of practice for funders who are investing in efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. We were energized to be among more than 35 private and public funders sharing ideas and brainstorming about ways to advance efforts to make youth homelessness a rare occurrence in our communities.

The conversation is an important one for us. The Raikes Foundation was recently one of the 2014 winners of the HUD/USDA Secretaries’ Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships, which recognized the collaborative effort we’ve been part of in King County to address youth homelessness. So we were pleased to contribute lessons from our work to Funders Together’s national community of practice. Collaborating with our peers during last week’s gathering, three themes underscored the importance of this effort.

  1. This is the right time and moment to address youth homelessness. The “window of opportunity” to focus on youth homelessness is now. Nationally, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness officially adopted the goal to end youth homelessness by 2020. There are efforts in multiple states including Washington, Minnesota and Maryland to strategically address youth homelessness. And at the local level, many communities and funders are increasing their efforts to end youth and family homelessness as they make progress on reducing chronic adult and veteran homelessness. This means that as funders get smarter about what strategies are effective for homeless youth, there is an increasingly receptive audience to implement solutions.

  2. Funders—especially private funders—are uniquely positioned to play a catalytic role. There is so much we can do—whether it’s convening a diverse stakeholder group across multiple systems or using our voice to highlight and elevate the issue of youth homelessness. Private funders bring flexible dollars to the table, which can fund innovative demonstration projects. We can uniquely support projects that public funders don’t prioritize, including efforts in research and evaluation, agency or system level capacity building, and/or pilot projects. The Foundations for Youth Success effort is a great venue for trading ideas and learning what has worked in different parts of the country.

  3. This is an opportunity for us to learn faster and more effectively together. As I mentioned, we fund regional efforts in King County to address youth homelessness. Many of the funders who attended last week’s meeting also fund locally. Yet, many of our communities face common challenges. Big questions, like: What are effective prevention strategies? How can we make youth homelessness rarer by working with child welfare or school systems? What can we do to make youth homelessness brief? What are innovative and appropriate sets of housing options that are most effective for youth and young adults? What about education and employment? How can we incentivize and better connect diverse players such as employers, schools and other support service providers to better serve youth who have experienced homelessness?

No single organization has enough time or money to answer these questions on its own. We need to get smarter about how we learn faster and more effectively. As a community of funders, we should learn from each other’s successes and failures, and double down on funding that maximizes the catalytic power of our investments.

Launching this national community of practice couldn’t be timelier. Thousands of young people are experiencing homelessness in our communities today. This is a problem we can solve. By working together, we can leverage each other’s efforts and act collectively to make youth homelessness rarer. Even if we can’t avert the crisis for youth and young adults completely, we can certainly ensure that it is a brief and one-time occurrence.

Click here to join Foundations for Youth Success


katie_hong_sized.jpgKatie supports the Raikes Foundation’s national work on early adolescent development and leads the foundation’s efforts around youth and young adult homelessness. Previously, Katie worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she oversaw its initiative to reduce family homelessness and the foundation’s advocacy grantmaking, including education efforts in Washington state. Katie has also served as the Director for the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing and spent time as Executive Policy Adviser to Governor Gary Locke and as a White House Fellow for both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Find her at @KatieHSeattle.

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  • commented 2014-11-17 18:55:15 -0500
    Thanks to the Raikes Foundation for being leaders in this work

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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