Ending Homelessness: The Philanthropic Role
Homelessness became a significant social problem in the 1980s. The number of people experiencing homelessness has risen steadily to the present levels of three to four million
annually—more than 1% of the population. Yet there is reason to hope that we can end homelessness within a decade. Much is known about the causes and effects of homelessness.
Field-tested services and programs are available to provide safe, decent affordable housing. Stabilizing support services help people stay housed and provide needed assistance to particularly vulnerable populations. Detailed plans to eradicate homelessness have been developed at local and
national levels. Community-based coalitions, governments, and foundations are poised for an historic collaboration, giving us good reason to believe we can end homelessness.
Most foundations do not include homelessness among their funding priorities. Historically, only about 1% of annual giving has gone to homelessness. Most of these grants have gone
toward human service programs that only ameliorate the condition of homelessness instead of ending it. Foundations that do give to homelessness represent all types—large and small, corporate, community, and family. Executive Summary,this guide outlines various strategic contributions that foundations can make to prevent and end homelessness:
• Advocacy and public education to increase the
understanding of homelessness, build public will, and make change to local, state, and national policies.
• Community planning to bring all stakeholders to the table with the explicit purpose of ending homelessness.
• Prevention programs and systems change to intervene before people become homeless.
• Housing production, rehabilitation, and preservation to maintain and expand the supply of affordable housing.
• Integration of fragmented systems to provide coordinated and comprehensive services.
• Specialized supportive services to keep formerly homeless people housed.
Hopefully, these exemplary programs will inspire more foundations to realize that ending homelessness is an integral component of their missions and prompt them to accelerate a historically minimal level of funding in this area. If all foundations engaged in human services join forces in local and national efforts, homelessness can be ended before it becomes a permanent feature of the national landscape. (Authors)
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