What's this Collaborative of Funders Doing to Address Homelessness?

Collaboratives of funders appear to be a growing phenomenon. For housing nonprofits and funders, one collaborative that is particularly important to know about is Funders Together to End Homelessness.

First convened in 2004 as the Partnership to End Long-Term Homelessness, Funders Together became a 501(c)(3) organization in 2010 with a mission to make use of philanthropy’s "expanding potential for impact and change" to find ways to end homelessness for the long-term. 

The list of funders on board is long, and includes many of the big names. Gates, Hilton, Melville, Raikes, and Oak foundations are its Catalyst Funders with gifts of $25,000 or more. The full list is available here and is extensive, suggesting that this may be one of the more powerful coalitions out there to impact public policies on housing. Also impressive is the list of current members of the collaborative, which includes many state community foundations and United Way branches.

Funders Together makes clear that it does not buy into the Band-Aid solutions that see homelessness as an issue to be "merely managed" or treated as an intractable social problem. This collaborative is looking to increase coordination in government, involve business leaders, bolster advocates, educate policymakers, and redirect service providers in order to find long-term solutions to homelessness.

That's a lot of levers to pull. So how is Funders Together doing all that? Their plan involves "rethinking the systems that have allowed homelessness to persist." On its agenda:

  • Full and adequate funding for housing vouchers, public housing, and housing-related supportive services for vulnerable individuals and families. This is a huge issue in many communities. Many people line up hours in advance and wait in long lines for housing vouchers.
  • Creation and funding of housing trust funds at national, regional, and local levels. This is an important aspect of the larger plan to create affordable housing in more communities. Note to state-level grant-seekers: if your state doesn't have a housing trust fund, or it isn't fully funded, now might be the time to work on this.
  • Use of federal funds to provide emergency housing assistance to those in need. Advocates and service providers need to maximize their potential for federal reimbursement for housing assistance.
  • Creation of jobs for low-income families. Without jobs, people can't afford housing.
  • Creation of jobs for youth and young adults, especially those not in school. Youth unemployment is feeding youth homelessness.
  • Competitive grants to allow for the training of those who are unemployed. More training is needed to match employer needs with what's available on the current labor market.
  • Adequate childcare and transportation programs so low-income parents can keep their jobs. Housing stability is reinforced by good community supports like quality childcare and affordable public transportation.

The collaborative puts out a toolkit for funders to help with effective grant making, and holds conferences and events to address specialized issues like homelessness for vulnerable populations and youth homelessness.

With more attention to public policies that support affordable housing at the local and state level such as Housing Trust Funds, Funders Together is playing an important role in changing the national conversation about how to resolve homelessness.