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

COVID-19 Response and System Redesign: Recommendations for Philanthropy to Support Solutions to End Homelessness

Last updated: October 19, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continueswe must remember that we are all better off when everyone, especially members of our community experiencing homelessness, are healthy. People experiencing homelessness are uniquely at risk of being exposed to and contracting COVID-19and this pandemic has demonstrated the importance safe, stable housing as key to saving lives and keeping communities healthy. If we are thoughtful and intentional about how we act, we can end homelessness and keep communities safe 

The role of philanthropy during times of disaster and crisis cannot be overstated. Philanthropy should heed the calls to action to address systemic racism in grantmaking and public policy. We have aopportunity and obligation to be strategic in our philanthropic response and lean into philanthropy’s strengths to create new systems rooted in justice. These recommendations provide a framework in which philanthropy can be catalyst for racial and housing justice, not just in response to COVID-19, but in the long-term vision for systems change.

Equity Implications of COVID-19 Efforts  

COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated structural inequities that already existed. Factors that put BIPOC communities at increased risk include housing conditions; healthcare access and utilization; occupations; and gaps in education, income, and wealth. The COVID-19 mortality rate for Black people and American Indian and Alaskan Native populations is over twice as high as the rate for White people. We also know that Black and African Americans make up 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population. 

It is critical to understand that the disparities we are seeing are rooted in structural racism and are not about race. As stated in our Funders Together to End Homelessness Commitment to Racial Equity, the work to end homelessness must center racial equity to strengthen existing strategies and solutions and create new approaches that more effectively recognize and meet the needs of people of color experiencing homelessness. And during a time of crisis, this is especially important 

How To Use This Guide 

The following recommendations, which we’ve designed to align with the Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response, were first released in May 2020 and most recently updated in October 2020. 

Though created in the context of a response to COVID-19, these recommendations should also be used to reimagine philanthropy’s response to homelessness in all aspects and to redesign systems to be equitable and just. 

Finally, knowing that the work to respond and rebuild continues to evolve and is not linear, we have organized our recommendations into categories of action that philanthropy can take and roles that philanthropy can fill. Click on an image below to view the recommendations for each section: 


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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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