The Role of Philanthropic Leadership in Scaling Resources to Address Homelessness

August 14, 2019 – The USC Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy (The Center) has released Scaling Up: How Philanthropy Helped Unlock $4.7 Billion to Tackle Homelessness in Los Angeles, a case study examining how philanthropic leadership has positioned Los Angeles to better grapple with the enduring challenge of homelessness. The case documents philanthropy’s role in building a field that could respond to a mounting homelessness crisis and a platform for collaborative action that led two voter-approved ballot measures in 2016 and 2017.

The first, Proposition HHH, approved by city voters in November 2016, is a $1.2 billion bond to fund housing for homeless people and people at risk of becoming homeless and to fund fa

cilities that provide mental health care, addiction treatment, and other services. The second, Measure H, approved by county voters in March 2017, will raise an estimated $3.5 billion over a ten-year period through additional sales tax for supportive services, rental subsidies and prevention programs for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

These new resources became possible because of the actions of philanthropy and its community partners, which have remained steadfast in their commitment over a period of more than fifteen years to ending homelessness in Los Angeles. Together they have encouraged and supported the development of innovative service delivery, built up the capacity of permanent supportive housing, mobilized coalitions across sectors to better coordinate efforts, and successfully advocated for more public and private resources to prevent and end homelessness.

Much of this work began with The United Way of Greater Los Angeles helping to create and manage Home For Good, an initiative launched in 2010 that brought leaders from philanthropy, government and business together to align systems, engage the community and couple the more flexible resources of philanthropy with the more substantial resources of government.

“Home For Good has become an essential platform for leaders from different sectors to really understand and engage with each other on a deeper level about what is needed to address the homelessness crisis,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “That investment is creating new opportunities for us now as we work with the city and county to implement Proposition HHH and Measure H.”

This study underscores the value of philanthropy engaging with government, particularly in addressing wicked problems such as homelessness. By developing relationships with both elected and appointed government officials over the years, philanthropy worked with its community partners to nudge and cajole public officials to put the measures on the ballots. They then worked together on voter outreach and education, which contributed to voters approving the measures and bringing in resources to address homelessness at a scale not previously possible.

“Approval of Proposition HHH and Measure H in 2016 and 2017 punctuates an important chapter in a series of efforts that continue to this day around homelessness,” said James M. Ferris, Director of The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy and the study co-author. “As leaders continue to face new challenge in ending homelessness in Los Angeles, they should be proud of what they were able to accomplish together and what it portends for the ultimate intended impact of the two measures.”

The study, available on The Center’s website, was underwritten by the Irene Hirano Inouye Philanthropic Leadership Fund, which elevates and amplifies the role of philanthropic leadership for strategies that scale impact and governance practices that encourage shared governance between foundation boards and CEOs.

Download a copy: Scaling Up: How Philanthropy Helped Unlock $4.7 Billion to Tackle Homelessness in Los Angeles

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy promotes more effective philanthropy and strengthens the nonprofit sector through research that informs philanthropic decision-making and public policy to advance community problem solving. The Center is a part of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, which works to improve the quality of life for people and their communities, here and abroad.

For more information: Please contact Nicholas Williams, Associate Director, The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy at Nicholas.Williams@usc.edu or 213-740-8557.