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

Housing-Based Solutions Can End Homelessness


We know what works.  Philanthropy can help take it to scale.

We can end homelessness with coordinated, strategic investments – both public and private – in effective solutions. Or, put more simply, by funding what works.

The key is housing combined with the right supports for people who are or may become homeless. Housing-based solutions focus on moving people who are homeless into affordable rental housing and providing them with supports they need to remain there.

The traditional approach to homelessness focused on counseling and treating people with mental illnesses or those recovering from substance abuse while they lived in emergency shelters or on the streets. We now understand that approach to be putting the cart before the proverbial horse.

Research indicates that people experiencing homelessness need a stable living environment before they can benefit fully from support services and begin to achieve self-sufficiency. According to research by Corporation for Supportive Housing, it costs about the same to house someone in stable, supportive housing as it does to leave that person homeless and reliant upon high-cost crisis care and emergency housing. And housing results in better outcomes for both the person experiencing homelessness and the public systems that must otherwise respond to that person’s emergency needs.

What are Housing-based Solutions?

Permanent supportive housing is long-term, affordable rental housing linked to services to help formerly homeless people remain in their homes and achieve self-sufficiency. While temporary shelters and transitional housing can help people who are homeless manage short-term emergencies and bridge waiting periods for housing, these options are still a step or two away from living on the streets. Only a stable home can lift homeless individuals and families out of the chaos of crisis.

Supportive services tailored toward a person’s needs are an important component of housing-based solutions to homelessness. These services are designed to help people stabilize their lives, achieve self-sufficiency, and remain in their homes. Services may include:

  • Help maintaining a lease, being a successful tenant, and other life skills training;
  • Case management and connections to mainstream services such as health care;
  • Assistance with post-secondary education, job training, and employment counseling.

Rapid re-housing recognizes that people are better able to stabilize their lives when living in their own homes instead of temporary shelter. The goal is to quickly move them into housing and provide support to help them remain there.

Prevention and diversion strategies help people avoid homelessness. Prevention targets people at imminent risk of homelessness and diversion targets people as they applying for entry into emergency shelter. Prevention and diversion services can include:

  • Financial help to pay rent or utilities in arrears;
  • Short-term cash assistance until a household can resume paying rent independently; and
  • Case management and legal assistance to help a family remain in its current housing.

Creating a coordinated entry system – or standardizing the process for identifying and assisting people experiencing or at risk of homelessness – is also critical to the success of housing-based solutions. In a coordinated system, each entry point uses the same assessment tool and makes decisions with their clients about which programs will be most helpful to them.

How Can Philanthropy Support These Housing-based Solutions?

You, as both funder and community partner, have an important role to play in promoting, sustaining, and amplifying the movement to prevent and end homelessness.

Fund what works: The solutions described above are an excellent starting point. If you get stuck and want to learn how other funders are supporting housing-based solutions to homelessness, let us know and we can make the connections for you.

Support research and the use of quality data: We know that housing-based solutions work because we have the research and data to back them up. We will always need information about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Be a part of the continual effort to collect and share data.

Support technical assistance and capacity building: Foundations can play a critical role in helping established provider organizations, like emergency shelters and transitional housing programs, reorient their programs and policies and retrain their staff to focus on long-term housing.

Educate and advocate: Funders can support grassroots and other advocacy organizations to help create broad community support for housing-based solutions to homelessness.

Expand the supply of affordable housing: Funders can help expand the affordable housing supply by working with their communities to establish housing trust funds and by making program-related investments that fund rehabilitation, development, and maintenance of housing units.  Read about Melville Charitable Trust's strategy to expand affordable housing here.


Interested in more information on the funder's role in ending homelessness?  Take a look at our Grantmakers' Toolkit on Ending Homelessness.



Showing 1 reaction

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

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.