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

Identify and Fund Capacity Needs

Last updated: May 10, 2021

With any disaster response, there will always be immediate and long-term capacity needs. One of the advantages and privileges of philanthropy is the ability to operate at the 30-thousand foot level, and we believe that philanthropy can use this to support communities in connecting dots and scenario planning. In this section, we’ve added to our previous recommendations about identifying and funding capacity needs to be more explicit about philanthropy’s role in helping their communities think about:  

  • The homelessness response system, specifically around congregate shelters, given the nature of the COVID-19 virus and the coming winter months. 
  • How to bolster policies and services related to eviction prevention, renter protections, and housing vouchers, given a looming eviction crisis once the federal eviction moratorium ends.  
  • How to build public and political will and change hearts and minds now to create support for people who will face housing instability and economic hardship even after economic “recovery”, such as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who have been disproportionally affected.  

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

Capacity of Your Community's Systems

  • Identify short and long-term staffing needs, such as front-line staff, emergency response strategists, policy analysts, etc.of grantee partners, lead community organizations, and Continuums of Care (CoCs) and provide needed resources in order to meet those staffing needs.  
  • Set priorities for providing repayable "bridge loans” from philanthropy for immediate housing needs based on the financial and time gaps of the CARES Act and subsequent federal funding relief bills. 
  • Fund an analysis of the community’s capacity to receive new local, state, and federal resources and focus them on racial equity, marginalized populations, and equitable systems. 
  • Assess the capacity needs to continue critical long-term initiatives, such as Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP), Grand Challenges, and projects focused on advancing racial equity in housing.   
  • Explore implementing innovative practices, such as cash transfers, to provide flexible funding and support to people and communities that need it most, such as undocumented immigrants. Consider how these practices can become permanent post-coronavirus pandemic. 
  • *** Identify and prioritize capacity needs to provide alternatives to congregate shelter models to allow for proper social distancing and isolating as the country enters colder seasons and a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak coupled with influenza season. 
  • Support an assessment of homeless service system’s current diversion practices and establish strengthened practices and increased capacity, including tailoring support for households whose support networks have fewer resources. Ensure that prevention funding is being provided to community-based organizations and/or non-traditional partners best able to reach into highly-impacted communities. (A Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response) 
  • Support scenario planning for several months and years out and begin conversations about permanent system changes, such as moving away from congregate shelter models, creating new public funding streams for affordable housing and homelessness services, and for moving systems towards equity and justice. 

Examples & Resources:

  • Creating new funding streams 
    • Portland, OR voters passed a tax on wealthy households and companies in May 2020 to end chronic homelessness. Meyer Memorial Trust helped support the messaging for the ballot measure.  
    • Measure J in Los Angeleswhich is trying to dismantle systemic racism by investing in health, housing, and jobs

Capacity Needs Related to Policy Changes

  • *** Support the assessment of the impact policies will have on homelessness. Examples of policies include: cessation of eviction moratoria, rent forbearance, unemployment compensation, and individual payments.
  • *** Fund the research and analysis to determine what kind of eviction prevention policies, interventions, and support are neededExamples of this include right to counsel and supporting better data and research around informal evictions.  
  • *** Provide support in using this research and analysis to creating new policies and interventions, including using your voice as a funder to advocate for these policies.   
  • Help create or support creation of evaluation measures to show the impact of response dollars and immediate interventions in order to help communities make mid-course corrections to interventions. 
  • *** Fund the capacity for leaders in the community, including grassroots organizers and movement leaders, who have had to focus on crisis response to have time and space for strategic planning, action, and self-care.  

Examples & Resources:  

  • Supporting the capacity of grassroots leaders 




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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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