Veterans Day is a time when we celebrate and honor those who’ve served in the United States military, and we thank them for their service. Serving in the military takes real dedication and courage, especially for anyone who’s served in a war zone, so it seems especially cruel and unfair when those who have served our country with honor find themselves homeless and struggling. This Veterans Day, we thought we’d take a closer look at the problem of veteran homelessness to try to understand its root causes and learn more about what’s being done to make sure that all our military personnel have the resources they need once their service is over.
Regional funders network invests in capacity of county task force on the homeless to accelerate systems change
San Diego, CA (Oct. 17, 2017) – Funders Together To End Homelessness San Diego (FTEHSD) have committed $425,000 over two years to help build the immediate capacity of the Regional Task Force On The Homelessness (RTFH), which has resulted in the immediate hiring of national homelessness expert Tamera Kohler as the agency’s new Chief Operating Officer.
The funding, which will see $250,000 invested in the first year to support the hire of Ms. Kohler and a new Development Director, will be bolstered by a further $175,000 if the RTFH meets certain performance indicators.
Director of Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego, Amy Denhart, was thrilled to see local funders step up and provide a direct investment to fixing the problem of homelessness in a focused and sustainable way. “We are in the midst of a homelessness crisis in which many efforts to tackle the problem have been largely performed in silos. At this point, service providers are working toward a coordinated effort to be successful and this investment in RTFH is all about continuing to build a crisis response system for a collective approach to ending homelessness throughout the region.
“We believe in the direction of RTFH, the new CEO Gordon Walker, and the ability of the agency to become the backbone organization on homelessness for the entire county,” Ms. Denhart said.
The Regional Task Force yesterday announced that Seattle’s former division director of homeless strategy and investment, Tamera Kohler, will fill the position of COO. Ms. Kohler has 18 years of homeless, non-profit and lending experience, including the last 6 years helping lead nationally-noted homelessness reduction programs.
FTEH San Diego is a regional collaboration of funders and foundations facilitated by San Diego Grantmakers, which combine and align resources to actively end homelessness in the county. FTEHSD’s long-term strategy is focused on permanent housing and is committed to solving homelessness through leadership, education, and advocacy; strategic collaboration, alignment and focus of resources; and effective promotion and replication of evidence-based practices in our community.
FTEHSD Chair Nancy Sasaki noted, “This is an important step forward in building local expertise and infrastructure in a deliberate and measurable way. Local funders want to invest in a region-wide strategy to achieve coordinated systems change so that every time one of our neighbors experiences homelessness, they immediately have access to the service providers and support that make that experience rare, brief and one time.” Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego is pleased that this grant to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless takes us closer to that goal.
Media Contacts: Amy Denhart | (858) 875-3331 | email@example.com
Word Count: 419
Funders Together To End Homelessness San Diego (FTEHSD) is a regional collaboration of grantmakers that combine and align resources to actively end homelessness in the county. FETHSD's is focused on promoting an effective and efficient system of housing and service, and through the expansion of philanthropic engagement in the systems change work needed to end homelessness in San Diego County.
San Diego Grantmakers is a 501(c)3 membership association of organizations and individuals that give strategically and significantly to multiple nonprofits each year. To date, SDG's membership includes more than 110 foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, giving circles, donor advised funds, grantmaking public charities and government funders. SDG enhances the good work of its grantmaking members by providing opportunities for networking and collaboration, education, and advocacy.
Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego (FTEHSD) and San Diego Grantmakers (SDG) recently organized a meet and greet for local funders with Gordon D. Walker, the new CEO of The San Diego County Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH). According to Walker, “The Regional Task Force on the Homeless is the superstructure for the community—the philosophical leader. There are hundreds of wonderful ideas bubbling up in the region.”
In Walker’s previous role, he successfully reduced chronic homelessness by 91% in Utah.
Introducing Walker was the Chair of FTEHSD, Nancy Sasaki. She explained that housing first is a system based on the tenet that if you can solve an individual’s first level of need – shelter (safety, water, warmth) – then you can begin to work on the higher needs of the person.
When asked if homelessness can really be ended, she explained, “Yes, we can effectively end homelessness by making experiences of homelessness rare, brief, and one time.” To that end, FTEHSD funds system-building efforts like building the database that supports the San Diego community to develop a region-wide system of matching people to housing in the most effective and efficient manner possible and consistent with the housing first framework. Sasaki is also the Executive Director of Alliance Healthcare Foundation and the incoming board chair for San Diego Grantmakers.
”Housing first is the only strategy I've seen that can be scaled to house and provide services for as many people as needed.” - G. Walker
FTEHSD started as a learning group and progressed through SDG’s Learn-Plan-Act Continuum. After significant learning, pooling funding was an important progression to be able to take action. FTEHSD currently invests $400,000-500,000 each year; with its members deeply embedded in the community and committed to solving this critical social issue.
The video above was developed for FTEHSD by member Andy Ballester shared some sobering statistics. Did you know that 8,209 people are currently in need of permanent housing?
"Homelessness is solvable; it's not rocket science… Unfortunately the majority of people believe homelessness to be an intractable problem; it’s not. There are pretty effective strategies to get there, but we have to work together and we have to do it as a team," urged Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, during his interview.
Walker adds that “San Diego is at a tipping point. The citizens have to decide what they want... The business community is willing to put money into the effort. We need to start focusing on the ultimate solution: how do we end chronic homelessness?”
Of all the homeless population in San Diego, 12% are chronically homeless.
Chronic homelessness is defined by Walker as a person who has been homeless for a year or longer or who has had four episodes of homelessness in three years and has a debilitating condition (mental illness, alcoholism, drug addictions).
With just a few months in this role under this belt, Walker is optimistic. He concludes, “The business that we are in is the business of saving lives. Together we are going to talk, help, cajole, and everything else we can leverage to help change lives. And we will do it.”
Q&A Session with Local Funders
Q: I was really impressed by Los Angeles and what they've done on the homeless issue, passing a $1.2 billion bond, committed to build 10,000 housing units, and passed $350,000/yr for 10 years. What will their challenges be?
A: Political will. The time may be right now, but we need political will to go along with any funds.
Q: Does San Diego have the political will it needs?
A: San Diego County committed $25 million and 11 properties for developing affordable housing. San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has more ideas bubbling up, including a recent announcement to install three temporary tent structures to house 100+ people each. There is a locally proposed ballot measure focused on solving homelessness and also State Senate Bill 2 (low-income housing funding through a recording fee) & Senate Bill 3 (would place a $3 billion bond for low-incoming housing on the 2018 ballot).
Q: What is the timeline you anticipate to get together a coalition of the willing?
A: Two to three years. There are a lot of resources in San Diego, but they are uncoordinated. We must begin today to coordinate efforts. Absent that focus, we'll be in the same place in three years as we are today.
Philanthropy's Critical Role in Ending Homelessness
Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego (FTEHSD)
FTEHSD focuses on systems change and families and youth and has a pool of funds for emerging opportunities. Since its inception, FTEHSD has both challenged and supported the system.
Community Standards Tool
For the first time, the region has a set of community standards that are designed to ensure service providers are following best practices that will lead to the reduction and effective end of homelessness. These were developed by the RTFH, with input from providers. Funders can use the community standards tool developed by FTEHSD to understand if grantees are complying with or working towards these best practices that make their work a part of ending homelessness for all of San Diego.
What Can You Do?
While San Diegans might be confused by the different programs, philosophies and proposed solutions to ending homelessness, here’s one thing to know: The Housing First approach works – and we’re in danger of losing it if ill-informed politicians and agencies get their way.
Housing First is proven. National and San Diego County regional data back this up time and time again, as do Housing First success stories in Houston, Salt Lake City, Orlando and many regions across the country.
This is how and why it works: Housing First offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides customized wraparound supportive services to meet their needs. When those experiencing homelessness don’t have to face the fear of getting kicked out of a program or pressure of an arbitrary deadline to meet a provider’s expectations, they are, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more likely to discontinue substance abuse, participate in job training, attend school and spend fewer days hospitalized than those not participating in Housing First programs.
What’s more, programs that follow the Housing First model are the most flexible — a key component in ensuring success when dealing with multiple people with varying needs and circumstances. Services are provided by focusing on spending money on what the individual or family needs as opposed to checking boxes for services rendered that may not be effective but chip away at grant money.
All of the cities mentioned above — and others — point to outcomes that support the success of the Housing First model: People remain stably housed, reduce their use of crisis services and institutions, and improve their overall health and social welfare.
With these findings in mind, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson recently spoke at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in support of Housing First. “A man will not beat addiction from a gutter, he will not get psychiatric help underneath a bridge, and he will not find a steady job without a steady address,” he stated.
However, in a June letter to Secretary Carson, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and 22 other Republican congressional leaders urged Carson to not prioritize funding programs that follow the Housing First approach to ending homelessness because it puts “families, youth and children at risk.”
Carson addressed these concerns during the conference. “Many taxpayers are understandably concerned about providing housing with no conditions against subsidizing drug use or other harmful behavior,” he said, but went on to say Housing First initiatives make sense — “not just morally, but practically.”
And the practical and moral reasons are clear: Housing First works by saving money and lives.
Locally, the San Diego veterans’ system has shown the dramatic success of Housing First by logging a 24 percent decrease in veteran homelessness in just two years and an approximately 40 percent decrease in five years.
Furthermore, a study by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University found that San Diego saved at least $3.5 million from 2010 to 2015 after it provided housing and social services to 28 people who had been heavy users of public services like emergency rooms, shelters and jails.
What about the “families, youth and children at risk” Issa refers to? Does Housing First work for them, too? As a matter of fact, it does.
The Family Options Study — a multisite random assignment study designed to examine the impact of various housing and services interventions for homeless families — was launched by HUD in 2008. Between September 2010 and January 2012, a total of 2,282 families — including more than 5,000 children — were enrolled in the study. The findings? Getting families into affordable housing as quickly as possible is the most cost-effective and efficient approach to ending family homelessness — beating the outdated approach of providing service-intensive, temporary housing that Issa and his supporters advocate.
And on the moral side: Look at the multitude of people who have died on our streets because of outdated approaches — methods we long believed were the best we had to offer. Now that we know better, it’s clear a more humanistic solution is needed.
Advocating for ineffective and wasteful models is in no one’s best interest. The jury isn’t out. We know what works and what doesn’t. While San Diego has been slow to adopt common-sense, data-driven solutions, evidence has given us a clear path to what works and Secretary Carson and HUD are correct to favor programs that follow Housing First.
Michael McConnell is a member of Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego, a small business owner, and former vice chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. This article first appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on August 4, 2017 and is reprinted with the author's permission.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michelle Slingerland
Cell: (619) 277-3927 Office: (858) 875-3333
Local Philanthropic Group Announces Third Year of Funding to Support Efforts to End Homelessness in San Diego
San Diego, CA (July 19, 2016)—A group of philanthropists that combines and aligns their resources to help San Diego’s homeless has announced it will allocate $445,000 this year and is hiring a Director to oversee its work.
Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego (FTEH-SD) is part of a national network of grantmakers working to end and prevent homelessness. Now in its third year of collaborative funding, the group will support projects that address family and youth homelessness and create long-term improvements to policies and programs dealing with homelessness in addition to supporting the community’s ongoing efforts to end veteran and chronic homelessness.
“On any given night, there are nearly 8,700 homeless people in San Diego County,” said Nancy Sasaki, FTEH-SD Chair and Executive Director of Alliance Healthcare Foundation. “We must move to evidence-based best practices in preventing and eliminating homelessness in order to achieve any significant reduction in this number and lessen its impacts on communities.”
Those practices include rapid re-housing, enhanced data collection, coordination throughout the county and with non-HUD funded agencies, and education and training. The group is additionally seeking out projects that help alleviate family and youth homelessness specifically. Requests for proposals will be posted to the FTEH-SD website and Facebook and Twitter accounts periodically through June 2017. To help manage the group’s learning and funding, it is now accepting applications for a Director.
In the past two years, FTEH-SD has invested more than $1.3 million to align with public funds in our region. This provided critical staff and legal support for the recently established Regional Continuum of Care Council Governance Board, and seeded and expanded the region’s Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement system.
FTEH-SD's efforts join with other significant initiatives in our region, including the City of San Diego and San Diego Housing Commission's Housing Our Heroes to end homelessness for 1,000 veterans; the County of San Diego Department of Health and Human Service's One for All to help homeless individuals with mental health issues; and a multi-stakeholder commitment to improving our regional structure to end homelessness that was heralded by an "Opening Doors" event in February.
FTEH-SD commends all of these efforts and its leaders for actively working on finding solutions to the issue of homelessness. The group welcomes additional funders interested in combining and aligning resources with their efforts and in concert with these broader efforts. For more information, visit http://www.funderstogethersd.org/.
FTEH-SD is facilitated by San Diego Grantmakers (SDG), a 501(c)3 association for organizations and individuals that give strategically and significantly to multiple nonprofits each year. SDG’s membership includes 115 foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, giving circles, donor advised funds, public charities, government funders, philanthropy advisors, and individual donors. By providing opportunities for learning, collaboration, and advocacy, SDG increases the impact of its members’ charitable giving and the ultimate benefits to society.
At Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego (FTEH), we actively promote and invest in efforts that help our region end veteran and chronic homelessness.
Over the last 2 years, FTEH has invested more than $1.3 million in best practices that have provided flexible, complementary funding to the alignment of public funds in our region. Specifically, we supported the infrastructure of the newly established Regional Continuum of Care Council Governance Board – including critical strategic staff and legal support –and our funding seeded and expanded the region’s Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement system.
We ask the community, as a whole, to join in these efforts to build on the collaboration that has already been started and develop a region-wide approach to end homelessness. The below examples are a great start.
The City of San Diego and San Diego Housing Commission recently announced their “Housing our Heroes” initiative, a $12.5 million program that will aim to end homelessness for 1,000 veterans by working with landlords to provide housing, covering security deposits, providing hundreds of housing vouchers to assist with rent and offering supportive services. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association and the San Diego County Apartment Association are joining in the effort to provide outreach to landlords.
Hitting the issue from another side is the County of San Diego Department of Health and Human Services’ “One for All” initiative. Behavioral Health Services (BHS), a division of HHSA, is deploying about $6 million in additional Prop 63 Funds (Mental Health Services Act) to enhance services and housing for those living on our streets with mental health issues. Using a “housing first” model based on Project 25 – a successful San Diego program – BHS seeks to end homelessness for all San Diegans with severe mental illness. This successful model works because permanent housing is put at the front end of the solution, with an abundance of the needed supportive services to follow in order to help the individual or family maintain stable housing and rise to a higher level of self-sufficiency. This model is proven to save money and has been very successful at solving homelessness in other communities.
Earlier in February, community leaders, non-profit providers, elected officials, public agencies, business leaders, advocates and other stakeholders came together to improve our regional structure to end homelessness. The event named “Opening Doors” was convened by San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria, chair of the Regional Continuum of Care Council and Michael McConnell, member of Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego and regional lead of the 25 Cities Initiative.
At FTEH San Diego, we have seen great progress around the country when significant partnerships like these come together and strategic initiatives are launched. FTEH would like to commend the County, the City of San Diego and Chula Vista, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Mayor Mary Salas, all those who coordinated the “Opening Doors” event, the San Diego Housing Commission, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association, the San Diego County Apartment Association and County of San Diego Department of Health and Human Services for launching and funding these initiatives. FTEH is proud to not only support these efforts, but also play an integral part in countywide changes helping our community solve the issue of homelessness.
Private funders can learn more about FTEH and join us in our mission by visiting www.funderstogether.org/funders_together_san_diego, and landlords can find out more about the offerings available through the “Housing Our Heroes” program, which includes monetary incentives covering rent, security deposits and utilities, federal vouchers and more by calling the city hotline at 619-578-7768 or emailing HousingOurHeroes@sdhc.org. Together, we can end homelessness in our communities.
- Nancy Sasaki, committee chair, Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego