“The Melville Charitable Trust began its work on homelessness with two simple thoughts: The first was that the persistence of homelessness in the wealthiest democracy in the world was, quite simply, scandalous. The second was that it was a solvable problem.”
The Melville Charitable Trust was established by the estate of Dorothy Bigelow Melville. Throughout her life, Mrs. Melville participated with her husband, Ward Melville, in many philanthropic activities around their home in Stony Brook, Long Island. Mrs. Melville placed no specific strictures on how the funds of the Charitable Trust should be devoted. Rather, she relied on the judgment of her son, Frank Melville, to choose charitable causes.
Frank organized and chaired the Board of the Trust for nearly 15 years, until his death in 2007. The work of the Trust has been defined by the vision and wisdom of the Trust Board which, in addition to Frank, included his late wife, Allen, their son, Steve, and their life-long friend and colleague, John R. Gibb. The Trust also benefited from the enthusiasm and generosity of Frank’s sisters, Ruth Berlin and the late Margaret M. Blackwell.
At its first meeting in 1990, there was unanimous agreement by the Board to consider a common concern – homelessness – as its initial funding focus. Believing that in a healthy society no one should be left behind, the Trust set out to lend support to programs that would alleviate and reduce the damaging impact of homelessness on children, adults and our communities.
Since that time the Trust has invested more than $95 million in grants and Program Related Investments (PRIs) to nonprofit organizations working to alleviate homelessness and develop housing and community solutions. It plays a key role in building networks and strengthening the provider, developer, research and advocacy communities. In particular it has funded key innovations in supportive housing in Connecticut that have become models for a nationwide movement. The Trust’s work has sparked the development of over 150,000 units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.
Ultimately, the Trust is setting out to change public thinking about the ways to consider and end homelessness. Its conscious strategy had 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.