Uniting the region around bold, inclusive ideas and solutions which can be brought to scale is a fundamental part of what we do at United Way to break the cycle of poverty. The USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy recently demonstrated the success of our model in a case study titled, Scaling Up- How Philanthropy Helped Unlock $4.7 Billion to Tackle Homelessness in Los Angeles. The study found that vast public problems, such as the homelessness crisis, require public resources, strong partnerships, effective governance and collaboration across civic, business, philanthropic and community sectors.

We knew over a decade ago when we launched a strategic plan to tackle the key issues of poverty, that ending homelessness would be at the epicenter of our mission. What we didn’t anticipate is the vast complexities and challenges L.A. County faced not only from its sheer size and number of people experiencing homelessness, (98,000 at the time in 2007), but the high rent and lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages, along with the fragmentation of local government between City and County compounded the problem a continuum of people coming in and out of homelessness.  

It was the formation of cross-sector partnerships, as the case study calls “Building the Field” where philanthropic leaders developed a field of homeless providers, advocates, local governments and business leaders to address homelessness, eventually resulting in a broad coalition to improve and align public and nonprofits systems. Through United Way’s efforts, and in partnership with such organizations as the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, we built the Business Leaders Taskforce, Home For Good, The Funders Collaborative- all of which bridged systems change with County and City, instituted process improvements such as the Coordinated Entry System, and through the Funders Collaborative raised $34 million in private funding, securing $700 million from government- funding mostly towards permanent supportive housing for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Ultimately, this resulted in new infrastructure which will help write the next chapter in the Los Angeles story through the implementation of Proposition HHH and Measure H. The case study repeatedly pointed to United Way as a model for cross-sector partnerships and innovative leadership as demonstrated by the following direct quotes.

  1. “Philanthropy tried to place pressure at the highest levels of local government to work together it wasn’t enough to catalyze the necessary changes. A broader collation was needed – one that went beyond philanthropy and involved nonprofits, businesses, and the local community – that could cajole action across the government.”

  2. “While there were many innovations, individuals, and institutions that contributed to the progress, the concerted focus of philanthropy – including the United Way – was instrumental. This is illustrated by the important role Home for Good Played in bringing parties from different sectors to the table.”

  3. “The United Way’s leadership in creating a platform that drew in business leaders put additional pressure on City and County leaders to improve services and better align programs and systems that could help the homeless. Moreover, it created a venue for leaders to forge strong bonds across sectors and built their capacity to act in the face of a crisis, one that became unbearable with the release of the 2015 homelessness count and rising demand for action among Los Angeles-area residents.”

  4. “As public charities, both CCF and the United Way were able to support advocacy activities in ways that private foundations could not.”

  5. “These efforts were amplified and empowered by the United Way’s creation of Home For Good, bringing together the business community, philanthropy and the public sector. The tenacity ofthe United Way/Home For Good team and HFG’s dexterity, which began with convening, fundraising and improving the delivery of services and ended with advocating and mobilizing for change, enabled this bolder leadership.”

This is just a brief overview of the full report. Click here to read the full study titled "Scaling Up - How Philanthropy Helped Unlock $4.7 Billion to Tackle Homelessness in Los Angeles" published by University of Southern California's Sol Price School of Public Policy, The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy.

We also want to thank you for uniting with us on these efforts which have been so instrumental in helping our most vulnerable neighbors. If you haven't joined in our mission yet we would encourage you to become an advocate or donate to create pathways out of poverty. You can also stay in the loop through our newsletter where we discuss how to end homelessness in Los Angeles.