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D.C. and major philanthropic organization launch partnership to end homelessness

The partnership seeks to aid nonprofit housing developers and service providers

Dupont Circle (2017)
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Through millions of dollars in investment and grant-making, a new partnership between the District and the Greater Washington Community Foundation, a public charity based in D.C., aims to end homelessness in the city. The partnership will raise money for nonprofit housing developers and supportive service providers who work with low-income residents and it will also offer impact-investing options meant to increase the District’s affordable housing stock.

Officials say this public-private partnership is the first of its kind in the region. And while various organizations have sought to decrease homelessness over the years, the city has “lacked a formal structure for better mobilizing and aligning the contributions of private sector partners,” said Kristy Greenwalt, the head of the District’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, in a statement. More than 6,500 people in D.C. were counted as homeless back in January as part of an annual homelessness census, a 5.5 percent drop from 2018.

“This [level of homelessness] is due in large part to rising housing costs that outpace local incomes and a shortage of affordable housing, which are preventing many people from participating in the region’s economic growth,” the Community Foundation said in a release. “In DC, a person earning minimum wage would have to work nearly three full-time jobs to afford an apartment suitable for a family, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.” Established in 1973, the foundation plans to put an initial $5 million toward an investment option that will be “available to its donors and others who join the Partnership,” with the goal of collecting $10 million for the nonprofit Enterprise Community Loan Fund.

On the grant-making side, the partnership intends to build capacity for affordable housing developers and community-based organizations, including by providing funding for such nonprofits to “pay for small expenses not covered by federal and local housing programs—such as rental application fees, security deposits and moving expenses.” The partnership’s first grant cycle is set to start in August. The foundation says $6.6 million has already been “raised and committed” for the partnership; $1.6 million has gone to the grant-making fund.

Regionally, during the January homelessness census the Washington metropolitan area saw its lowest number of homeless residents since 2001, according a report released last month: just under 9,800 people. Yet, many people experiencing housing instability are not included in the annual count, particularly homeless youth. (The census takes place on a single night.)