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2023 Funders Together Staff Reflections: Meditating on Hope

As 2023 comes to a close, we asked staff: "What is one thing you witnessed in the movement for housing justice that inspired you? What are you most looking forward to in 2024?"


I am fascinated with the language different cultures use. Language is so important, especially in our work to center racial equity and lead with justice. I love the way my colleague, Lauren, uses certain Midwest terms. I lean in when I hear the young people with lived experience in our movement say things that I know I should not say around our teenager at home – as it might make it seem like I am trying too hard to be cool.  

My mind is at holiday celebrations of the past while simultaneously thinking of those upcoming where the conversations and sayings feel like I am home. I think of my mom, in her thickest Jamaican accent, which mostly was heard when she was angry, saying “soon come” in response to anything that made her feel rushed. It was her way of saying be patient and trust the process. On the Kenyan side of my family often conversations would start and end with, “Can you imagine?” putting the finer point on some story or deeply heated global political conversation.   

Reflecting on this year those two sayings feel like they have deeper meaning. We are facing so much right now– a global humanitarian crisis that daily makes me cry, the great regression on racial equity efforts, and the daily criminalization and dehumanization of folks that are unhoused. But I have hope because I get to witness daily our network of members, philanthropy, and our movement towards housing justice hold the complexity of “soon come” and “can you imagine.”  

We will not undo 400+ years of oppression and racist polices without patiently learning and unlearning what got us here. We all feel the sense of urgency in our work, and yet we must also embrace the essence of “soon come” to slow us down so we don’t rush to put new resources and seemingly good policies within structures that are inherently racist. Otherwise, we will not get different results for those that have been historically marginalized by our systems of oppression, instead perpetuating the white supremacy culture that brings about the injustices we see daily.  

Picture of a diverse group of people who lead work in the housing justice movementLeft to right: National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) members Amanda Andere (FTEH), Peggy Bailey (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), Ann Oliva (National Alliance to End Homelessness), Donald Whitehead (National Coalition for the Homeless), Jessica Venegas (Community Solutions)

Philanthropy demonstrates this when we take the time to include people with lived experience and expertise in our strategies and when we trust communities with resources to innovate and build power. We can only get to housing justice as racial justice if we allow the spaciousness for folks to imagine what would be possible if we could be creative and live out a different relationship with housing in our country. I am encouraged by leaders in philanthropy who have been listening to community to motivate them into looking at social housing models and by the work of the National Coalition for Housing Justice’s Reimagining Housing and Community Lab” that is taking the much-needed time to learn from local leaders in other justice movements to set forth a new vision for housing policy beyond incremental change.  

I know hope is hard to find. I have been struggling to maintain a sense of hope despite all the good visioning and reimagining work that is happening in our movement. I feel daily in my bones that “soon come” will happen when we share and give up power to those who are most impacted by housing injustices. I know we will only get there when we reimagine our current systems and ways of working to instead center justice and liberation.  

I am reminded by a person who I consider my north star, Ash-Lee Henderson Co-Ed of the Highlander Research and Education Center who said “Hopelessness is the enemy of justice” and “If we don’t have the audacity to believe we can win and have hope, we are doing the opposition's work for them.” 

Let us have hope and put forth the time, energy, and resources to actualize it.  

- Amanda Andere, CEO, Funders Together to End Homelessness


Funders Together Staff Reflections from 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, staff answered the question: "What is one thing you witnessed in the movement for housing justice that inspired you? What are you most looking forward to in 2024?"

Lauren Bennett, Director of Communications and Policy: 

Headshot of Lauren BennettOver the past year, I’ve witnessed a shift in the movement of wanting to work differently together, specifically in the National Coalition for Housing Justice, as a way to dismantle the white supremacy culture we are all so engrained in. It is a constant muscle we need to work and we haven’t always gotten it right, but the way folks in the movement have continued to show up, be vulnerable, and explore what is possible when we hold a common vision of housing justice (even if the steps to get there differ) has brought me hope as we head into the new year. In 2024, I’m eager to build on this work so our movement can be more proactive, instead of reactive, to achieve a more just country. 

Carey Cabrera, Membership and Knowledge Coordinator: 

Headshot of Lauren BennettThe housing interventions stood up during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic like eviction prevention funds and eviction have shown advocates, philanthropy, and government that we have the ability and funds to do bold programs that keep people housed. This year I’ve been inspired by the housing and homelessness advocates who picked up that mantle and pushed not only for the continuation and improvement of those programs, but also continued the fight for housing and racial justice beyond those initiatives. In 2024, I look forward to continuing conversations about social housing and community land trusts as housing and racial justice. 

Stephanie Chan, Chief Strategy Officer: 

Headshot of Stephanie ChanI was fortunate to be able to visit several communities this year, including some firsts for me: Tulsa, OK; Omaha, NE; and Muscatine, IA. There, I witnessed and felt a true and deep sense of community and place unlike anything else I’ve experienced in my work. In 2024, I hope to help other places understand how necessary that sense of community and connectedness is for housing justice.  


Michael Durham, Director of Networks:

Headshot of Michael DurhamWhile our strategic framework from 2022 identified reparations as an example of corrective action for housing justice that we support, 2023 is when philanthropy seemed to awaken to the opportunity and obligation to both support federal reparations to Black people for slavery and embrace a framework for racial repair and loving accountability. In 2024, I look forward to more clearly connecting the dots to housing justice so we are clear-eyed about the interrelatedness of these struggles for liberation.  


Holly Sullivan, Finance Manager: 

Headshot of Holly SullivanAt the Funders Institute this past summer, I witnessed our foundation members and partners really engaging in discussions about truly understanding how to hold each other, national and community partners accountable in their work.  The shift to trust based philanthropy and understanding that by doing this we can begin to make reparations to those most impacted.  I am looking forward to Funders Together increasing regional networks throughout the country and expanding the current networks.  Together we can mobilize to expand racial and housing justice in this country. 

Jack Zhang, Programs and Communications Manager: 

Headshot of Jack ZhangThis past year, I witnessed how our communities really stepped up to look out for one another. We highlighted voices of people with lived experience, my colleagues stood in solidarity with people affected by the encampment sweeps in Washington, D.C., and we engaged in deep reflection about how housing justice is connected to our past and present in Tulsa. I am inspired by the work of our partners and peers, their commitments to racial justice, and relationships with one another. Next year, I am looking forward to taking bold steps towards housing justice and embracing the power of community within our work.

Thank You for Being Part of Funders Together

We send you our very best and wish you a safe, healthy, and restful holiday season.

The Funders Together to End Homelessness Staff

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  • Jack Zhang
    published this page in Blog 2023-12-19 10:54:45 -0500

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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