Engaging Philanthropy in Ending Homelessness

written by Jen Saunders and Guest Blogger Jason D. Alexander, Principal, Capacity for Change, LLC

What resources are available to communities to support rapid re-housing (RRH)? While there are a lot sources of funding available, communities are often unsure of how to get started.

In particular, developing a pool of flexible private dollars to support RRH can be critical to supporting aspects of the program that cannot be funded through federal and local funding. Here are some ways local communities have worked with philanthropy to raise funds to support RRH.

  • Montgomery County, PA. The county, which is located just outside of Philadelphia, has worked with their local community foundation to pool funds from 10 regional foundations to support a variety of activities related to homelessness, including rapid re-housing.The county has used a collective impact approach to develop a public-private partnership called “Your Way Home” that engages the private sector as a co-investor in homeless activities. Dollars raised are used to fund activities not typically covered by federal funds such as beds and household goods, car/renters insurance, ID replacement, child care, and public transportation costs, as well as diversion from shelter. The funds also support a Landlord Promise Fund, which includes flexible dollars for landlord engagement activities, risk mitigation funds, etc.
  • Palm Beach, FL. The Palm Beach Continuum of Care created a non-profit organization, the Homeless Coalition, as the primary fundraiser for the community. They CoC leveraged funds to pay the salary of the Coalition’s Executive Director so he or she could focus entirely on strategic fundraising for the CoC, particularly focused on raising private funds to support rapid re-housing.Through these efforts the community was able to develop several successful fundraising events, such as luncheons, golf tournament and a Walk a Thon. In total they raised about $45,000 in 2012 and $110,000 in 2013. The CoC also coordinates large fundraiser in the form of an annual Mayor’s Ball, which raised $300,000 to support RRH in 2015.

What Can You Do?

Montgomery County, PA recommends the following strategies for leveraging private dollars to support rapid re-housing:

  • Engage local community, family, and health foundations from day one of a planning process to create a public-private partnership to end and prevent homelessness.
  • Establish a common agenda and measurable community wide goals that both make sense for your community and that resonate with grantmakers who do not see their mission as ending homelessness (but instead may support public health, family stability, economic justice, etc.).
  • Develop formal mechanisms for rapid re-housing service providers, public agencies, and foundations to guide the cultivation and appropriate use of private funds.
  • Seek a home for grants and donations with a reputable foundation in the community (a community foundation, United Way, etc.).
  • Build a visible brand, name and online presence for the public-private partnership.
  • Define precisely how private dollars will support but not replace dedicated public funds to improve rapid re-housing services and outcomes.

How are you using nontraditional funding to support RRH? Let us know!