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

Advocate for Systems Change

Last updated: December 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and amplified how the housing and intersecting systems were designed on racist ideas and policies producing inequitable and broken outcomes. While its important for philanthropy to take a lead role in the response and recovery efforts, each recommendation that we’ve outlined will only be successful long-term and result in true systemic change if the systems we work within are redesigned and reimagined with a racial justice framework to ensure BIPOC are prioritized. 

Bringing about systems change requires a sector wide approach of engaging in public policy and advocacy at all levels: local, state, and federal. Philanthropy has a pivotal role to play in not just supporting and influencing equitable systems change, but pushing for this change as part of a long-term vision and plan that continually puts racial justice at the forefront. The recommendations in this section call out what can be done in the short-term to set up the conditions for equitable long-term change at the systems level and also how philanthropy can push for accountability and continue the work of community transformation.  

New recommendations (but not examples) are denoted with *** 

Advancing Equitable Public Policy

  • ***Support and invest in transformational local and state ballot initiatives to structurally change the budget by reallocating funding from existing locally controlled revenue to community investment, affordable housing, and homelessness prevention for housing justice.  
  • Fund the public and political will building capacity and mechanisms that will drive local and state governments to create and support long-term solutions to ensure those who have been housed during the pandemic do not exit back into homelessness.   
  • Push for systemic changes to policies that will further protect people experiencing homelessness, such as a ban on encampment sweeps and the decriminalization of homelessness.  
  • Fund strategic communications and messaging campaigns to reinforce the importance of a home not just during times of crisis, but as a human right. 
  • ***Push your organization’s board or trustees to increase involvement in public policy citing advancements made with relief packages and where those resources are flowing in order to set up the conditions to continue policy engagement within the organization and in concert with community stakeholders 

Examples & Resources:

Community Assessment and Impact Evaluations

  • ***Conduct evaluations and impact analysis of how local and federal COVID-19 resources have been utilized and made a different through mechanisms like rental assistance, moving people from congregate settings to hotelsetc. 
  • ***Utilize evaluations and analysis to educate local, state, and federal officials as well as public stakeholders to show impact of large dedicated investments and movement in preventing and ending homelessness as well as addressing housing instability for a healthier community. This can also be used to make the case for permanent federal subsidies and an increase in federal housing and homelessness budgets. 
  • ***Assess impact of equity-based decision-making and make mid-course corrections to program design to ensure equitable outcomes. This includes assessing the likely impacts of cessation of eviction moratoria, rent forbearance, unemployment compensation, individual payments, and other policies on homelessness. (A Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response) 

Transforming Communities Through Systems Change

  • Continue to educate local, state, and federal officials about progress being made in the community and also where there are gaps in efforts.   
  • Lead and model the process of acknowledging that existing systems are broken and structurally racist. Push community stakeholders to prioritize rebuilding new resilient, anti-racist systems and fund capacity for people with lived expertise to be at the table to make decisions on the rebuilding. 
  • Support the long-term strategic planning on emergency shelter configuration to eliminate congregate shelters in favor of shelters with private rooms and bathrooms to address general and long-term public health issues, and to ensure that all shelters are low-barrier and housing-focused. (A Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response) 
  • ***Consider critical components to systems change that will contribute to equitable and effective change like congregate shelters, acquiring property, budgets, housing vouchers while also keeping the unintended consequences of systems change at the forefront. The unique opportunity that exist within philanthropy is talking with stakeholders to have these conversations and address the unintended consequences as the long-term work develops. 

Examples & Resources:  



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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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