Since 1990, the Melville Charitable Trust has focused on the singular goal of ending homelessness. Research and the Trust’s experience have demonstrated that homelessness is a solvable problem and that safe, accessible and affordable housing is an indispensable part of the solution. For individuals and families with the greatest challenges to housing stability, ensuring access to affordable housing with appropriate services – supportive housing – is smart, humane and cost-effective.
The Trust is the largest foundation in the U.S. that is exclusively devoted to supporting solutions to prevent and end homelessness. Since inception, we have invested more than $120 million to alleviate homelessness by developing supportive housing, community solutions, and a stronger policy environment. Patient, strategic and consistent investment has provided us with a broad view of the field and confidence in what approaches are most effective.
Our funding strategies are diverse and flexible, built on experience and collaboration with grantee partners. A major priority is the growth of housing-centered initiatives in Connecticut that serve as models throughout the country. We also fund policy, research and advocacy initiatives both in Connecticut and nationally. All of these strategies must meet our primary goal – to create communities where everyone has a place to call home.
In Connecticut, a primary focus has been the creation of partnerships that bring nonprofits, government agencies and other stakeholders together to more effectively address housing, homelessness and community development. The Trust’s Lyceum Conference and Resource Center in Hartford and the work of the housing advocacy group the Partnership for Strong Communities are at the heart of our efforts to build a wider involvement in seeking solutions and opportunities for progressive change. In 2012 we made a significant investment in several grantee partners to support implementation of the Opening Doors – Connecticut plan to prevent and end homelessness statewide.
We have used our experience in Connecticut to inform our support of such national advocacy organizations as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Technical Assistance Collaborative. These long-term investments in advocacy, education and technical assistance have paid off in a variety of ways:
- The Trust’s investments have sparked the effort to develop over 150,000 units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless across the country.
- Our investments in National Public Radio have kept the critical issues of poverty and homelessness before the public at large and brought attention to effective solutions.
- We have been a steady supporter of legal efforts supporting community integration and civil rights for people with mental illness or other disabilities, through groups such as the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
- Our funding has led to the development of new informational resources designed to educate and inform local communities and policymakers on effective strategies for preventing and ending homelessness among families, veterans, youth, and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
- The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Act, conceptualized and promoted by Trust grantees, was signed into law in December 2010. This legislation spurred applications from 35 states in the first federal funding round to increase integration in affordable housing of extremely low income people with disabilities.
The staff and board of the Trust recognize that philanthropy has a unique role and opportunity as a convening and leveraging force. Five years ago we helped to found Funders Together to End Homelessness, a national network of foundations and corporations supporting strategic and effective grantmaking to end homelessness. Collaborating with some of America’s leading foundations, the Trust is helping to develop an outreach effort to engage regional and local funders throughout the country.
In our home state of Connecticut, through real estate investments and program development beginning in 2003, we took a hands-on approach to addressing the causes and symptoms of poverty in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford, a community that has long suffered from lack of opportunity and disinvestment. Our investments (both grants and program related investments) have resulted in the acclaimed fine dining restaurant Firebox, over 100 renovated units of affordable housing, and the startup of Billings Forge Community Works (BFCW). BFCW is a community nonprofit that creates opportunities for residents in Frog Hollow by operating a farmer’s market, youth afterschool programming, a performing arts space, and a social enterprise job training kitchen and café, which serves as a catering and retail sales business for the community and beyond.
Through our comprehensive approach, the Trust has been effective beyond our expectations in changing public thinking about the ways to consider and end homelessness. Our conscious strategy has been to move policy, decision making and the structure of government and philanthropy away from emergency, palliative responses that serve only to perpetuate homelessness and toward proven, lasting and cost effective alternatives that will permanently end homelessness as we know it today. Our work in Connecticut has resulted in state leadership that embraces evidence-based practices, invests wisely, and continues to operate at the forefront of state homelessness policy. The Trust will continue to support innovations at the local, state and federal level. Working with an expanding network of like minded grant makers, we look to a future in which philanthropy’s investments will be significantly leveraged by improved public systems that make homelessness a thing of the past.