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

Understanding the Connections Between Family Homelessness and TANF: Tips for Funders


Today, in every state, a family that relies entirely on TANF for income cannot cover the cost of fair market rent. Funders can play an important role in addressing the gaps.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) serves very few poor families — only one in four families living in poverty. Furthermore, TANF payments are very low and their value has eroded over time as most states have not adjusted TANF payments to account for inflation.

In every state, families that rely entirely on TANF for their income are struggling to pay the rent. Often public policies, government programs, research, and advocacy focused on family homelessness are not connected with policies, programs, research and advocacy focused on welfare to work programs or poverty.

Funders can, however, play an important role in addressing the gap between state TANF benefits and Fair Market Rents, as well as strengthening the relationship between state TANF programs and housing programs.  Funders can ensure that TANF protects our most vulnerable families.

Use our interactive map to see the TANF stats in your state.   

What can funders do?

Now is the time to build coalitions linking advocates working to end homelessness with advocates working to strengthen the safety net TANF payments and other benefits can provide for needy families.  Funders can:

  • Educate state policymakers and the public about the connections between family homelessness, housing costs, and inadequate TANF benefits for families with children
  • Provide meeting space, host forums, and help facilitate public education and coalition building to build shared knowledge and effective advocacy for changes in TANF policies
  • Provide challenge grants to match investments of TANF funding in programs designs to help prevent and end family homelessness, including rapid re-housing, housing stabilization supports, and subsidized jobs
  • Support research and evaluations to measure the impact of TANF-funded programs that provide assistance tailored to the needs of homeless families

Funders can also support state-level changes to TANF

Some of these include:


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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