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

Keep Racial Equity and Housing Justice at the Forefront

Last updated: October 19, 2020

In our response, must understand that the disparities we are seeing are rooted in structural racism and are not about race. The COVID-19 pandemic is not about pre-existing conditions. It’s about pre-existing inequities from stolen Indigenous land and chattel slavery. As Race Forward reminds us, COVID-19 kills, structural racism is its accomplice.  

As stated in our Funders Together to End Homelessness Commitment to Racial Equity, the work to end homelessness must center racial equity to more effectively recognize and meet the needs of people of color experiencing homelessness. Many of us are still developing our racial equity muscles, and during times of crisis, it is especially important to lean into racial equity work and not “put it aside” until a crisis is over. Being intentional now in addressing racial disparities and racist policies will create more equitable systems faster and allow for new ways of working together that live beyond the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In order for response and recovery efforts to be equitable, these questions, shared by the Consumer Health Foundation, should be asked at each step of any design and implementation process, including the philanthropic response:  

  1. How does your response, even in the midst of crisis, contribute to long-term systems change?  
  2. How are the voices of impacted communities centered?   
  3. What data (quantitative or qualitative) are driving resource allocation? And what does that data tell you about the experiences of various racial/ethnic groups? How are women and LGBTQIA people of color particularly impacted?  
  4. What are possible unintended consequences of the decisions you might make?  
  5. What additional disaggregated demographic data will you collect, track, and evaluate to assess equity impacts in COVID-19 response moving forward, and how will that data inform your future decisions when the crisis is over?  
  6. How are the actions you are taking grounded in history? 

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

Funding Priorities and Decisions

  • *** Look at where rapid response dollars are going and ensure that: 
    • Organizations led by and serving people of color and LGBTQ people are receiving resources every time dollars and resources are distributed. Because many of our racial equity muscles are still developing, we forget that this type of analysis is more important during crises and cannot be a process that is forgotten or paused until the pandemic is over. 
    • Dollars are flowing to communities affected the worst by COVID-19, job loss, and evictions, which are often neighborhoods that are predominantly BIPOC communities. Are your grant dollars and partnerships focused on those neighborhoods?  
  • *** Use available tools, such as CSH’s Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index (RDDI) and Urban Institute’s Where to prioritize emergency rental assistance to keep renters in their homes map, to focus funding, outreach, and partnership efforts.  
  • Prioritize culturally specific organizations that are not historically part of the mainstream systems to ensure they know of and are able to access both public and private funding. Strengthen these relationships and, if not already, fold these organizations into your regular grantmaking portfolio. Resource mainstream organizations to work with culturally specific organizations and vice versa.   
  • *** Directly fund grassroots organizers, including ones who are working on racial justice, environmental justice, and housing justice, with unrestricted grants and help amplify their work, resources, and needsMany grassroots organizers, especially those working for racial justice, truly understand an intersectional approach to supporting communities that includes access to adequate housing and healthcare.  

Examples & Resources:

Supporting People of Color

  • *** Make sure that the frontline staff, especially in organizations led by people of color, have access to the mental health and other wellness support systems to combat secondhand trauma.   
  • *** Listen to people with lived expertise about the compound impacts the pandemic and structural racism have and what they mean for policy and service priorities.  
  • Ensure and support outreach to populations experiencing homelessness or housing instability that may already be distrustful of the government and the medical system. This outreach should be led by people who already have a high degree of trust with those populations or communities. 
  • Ensure people experiencing homelessness and housing instability, especially people of color and other marginalized groups, understand policies that are being proposed and hear what kinds of permanent policies would help them in the long run. 

Examples & Resources:

Data, Evaluations, and Systems

  • Examine how culturally specific organizations are or are not connected to mainstream organizations and policy tables. Resource both mainstream organizations to work with culturally specific organizations and vice versa.   
  • Support research and equitable evaluation efforts that are multi-culturally valid and oriented toward participant ownership to communicate the effects response strategies are having on public health, community well-being, and the systemic drivers of inequity. 
  • Create space to learn about authentic collaboration in policy and funding decisions engaging people with lived expertise. Make sure that people with lived expertise have real power at decision-making tables.  
  • Analyze how your COVID-19 grantmaking contributes to long-term systems change on top of meeting immediate needs.   

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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