Philanthropy and the Homeless

Homeless means a person or family lacks permanent, safe and affordable housing. Homelessness is a complex issue with many causes, including low wages, high cost of living, discriminatory practices, family instability and mental health problems. It can also be a consequence of war, natural disasters and incarceration. Despite its complexity, homelessness is an important issue that needs our attention.

The United Nations considers access to housing a human right and calls on governments to do more to address homelessness. Homelessness is a serious problem in every country and affects people of all ages, races, gender identities, disabilities and economic backgrounds.

While there are many causes of homelessness, the most common one is a lack of affordable housing. Some people become homeless because they do not earn enough to afford the rent or mortgage in their neighborhoods, while others lose jobs that require them to travel far distances or work long hours. In addition, the gentrification of some low-income areas can cause rising prices and increased competition for homes, leading to displacement of families and a higher likelihood of homelessness.

People can experience homelessness in a variety of ways, including sleeping outside, staying with friends, using community resources like shelters or living in an encampment. However, most research and data on the issue have focused on urban areas, making it hard to know what’s happening in suburban and rural communities.

In a recent survey, the UCSF team asked 3,198 unhoused adults in California to describe their experiences. They found that for the vast majority of those surveyed, homelessness is a temporary crisis. Respondents who said that their homelessness was permanent cited a wide range of reasons, including conflict between roommates, not wanting to impose on the people they were living with and losing income from work or disability benefits.

While there is a lot of work to be done, philanthropy can play a critical role in this fight. We can support organizations that focus on solutions that work, set bold goals and make a difference. We can give to programs that support people, especially children and youth, to end homelessness for good. We can support community impact funds that work with local communities to build their own capacity to tackle the issue. We can invest in strategies that will help people move quickly out of homelessness, not just into housing, but also into stable, supportive relationships. And we can work together to create a national movement that ends youth homelessness for good by the year 2020.