The Day 1 Fund: Who Will It Serve and What Will It Do?

On Sept. 13, along with many of you, we saw Jeff Bezos’s announcement on Twitter that he and his wife were making a $2 billion contribution to support homeless families and preschools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. With respect to homeless families, Bezos said in his tweet that his vision came from Marty Hartman, CEO of Mary’s Place in Seattle: “No child sleeps outside.” 

Today, less than ten weeks after that announcement, the Day 1 Families Fund has made $97.5 million in grants to 24 organizations leading the way in ending family homelessness. 

What will the grants fund the organizations to do? 

First, quickly move families that become homeless to a safe place to stay, or divert them into another housing solution. 

Second, provide supportive low-barrier shelter while their crisis is resolved. 

Third, help families move back into housing as quickly as possible, with short or long-term rental assistance if they need it. 

And fourth, make sure that they get the services they need to stay in their new homes and thrive.

Not all the grantees will do all these things. But they will partner with others in their communities to make sure all services are provided. 

What will be the impact of these first grants from the Fund? Hopefully, it will be significant. The size of the grants — $2.5 to $5 million to each organization over a four-year period — is meaningful. In smaller communities or those where there are fewer homeless families, it will be a game-changer. In larger cities, the core support to key organizations will allow them to build their infrastructure and considerably ramp up their ability to act.

These are the right solutions to family homelessness, and the right organizations to implement them.

Ten weeks is a short time between announcing such a fund and making grants. In part, the Fund accomplished this by tapping a group of national experts to lend their advice in this early phase. The Alliance was pleased to have been invited to join this group, to share our ideas about how to approach the problem of family homelessness, and to help identify exemplary local nominees that could move the needle in their communities. We appreciate the Fund’s sense of urgency to help families and we congratulate the grantees!

This is a week when we, as a nation, set aside time to be thankful — perhaps for things that too many of us take for granted, like having a home. Because of these very generous grants, many hundreds of families that are homeless will soon have a home of their own to be thankful for. It’s a good way to celebrate the holiday.