COVID-19 Response and System Redesign: Recommendations for Philanthropy to Support Solutions to End Homelessness

Last updated: October 19, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we must remember that we are all better off when everyone, especially members of our community experiencing homelessness, are healthy. People experiencing homelessness are uniquely at risk of being exposed to and contracting COVID-19, and this pandemic has demonstrated the importance safe, stable housing as key to saving lives and keeping communities healthy. If we are thoughtful and intentional about how we act, we can end homelessness and keep communities safe.  

The role of philanthropy during times of disaster and crisis cannot be overstated. Philanthropy should heed the calls to action to address systemic racism in grantmaking and public policy. We have an opportunity and obligation to be strategic in our philanthropic response and lean into philanthropy’s strengths to create new systems rooted in justice. These recommendations provide a framework in which philanthropy can be catalyst for racial and housing justice, not just in response to COVID-19, but in the long-term vision for systems change.

Equity Implications of COVID-19 Efforts  

COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated structural inequities that already existed. Factors that put BIPOC communities at increased risk include housing conditions; healthcare access and utilization; occupations; and gaps in education, income, and wealth. The COVID-19 mortality rate for Black people and American Indian and Alaskan Native populations is over twice as high as the rate for White people. We also know that Black and African Americans make up 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population

It is critical to understand that the disparities we are seeing are rooted in structural racism and are not about race. As stated in our Funders Together to End Homelessness Commitment to Racial Equity, the work to end homelessness must center racial equity to strengthen existing strategies and solutions and create new approaches that more effectively recognize and meet the needs of people of color experiencing homelessness. And during a time of crisis, this is especially important.  

How To Use This Guide 

The following recommendations, which we’ve designed to align with the Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response, were first released in May 2020 and most recently updated in October 2020. 

Though created in the context of a response to COVID-19, these recommendations should also be used to reimagine philanthropy’s response to homelessness in all aspects and to redesign systems to be equitable and just. 

Finally, knowing that the work to respond and rebuild continues to evolve and is not linear, we have organized our recommendations into categories of action that philanthropy can take and roles that philanthropy can fill. Click on an image below to view the recommendations for each section: