November 11, 2020

Dear friends,

In April, as the COVID-19 virus was radically transforming our lives and world, we shared details about the Trust’s response, which included immediately redirecting funds toward emergency COVID-19 relief in Connecticut, streamlining our grant processes and offering flexible support to our grantee partners. At that point the impact of COVID-19 was just beginning and our country’s economic and social problems were emerging for all to see. The pandemic has demonstrated just how vulnerable people are when they do not have a safe place to call home; the growing financial inequality across our nation; the fragility of our inadequate safety nets; and the impact of racist housing, health and economic policies that have left Black and Brown Americans at particular risk of death, job loss and financial ruin.

And of course, COVID-19 is not the only scourge we are facing. Racist policing and the murder of unarmed Black people at the hands of police officers has finally sent shockwaves through the nation, creating demand for systemic change in law enforcement funding, training and accountability. Racist policies and practices that have been embedded into every facet of American life are finally being acknowledged more broadly, and a wider range of organizations, corporations and elected officials are beginning to discuss the need for racial justice in more compelling and urgent ways.

Like many foundations, we have been grappling with the best ways to respond to COVID and our nation’s long-overdue reckoning with racism. We have also been reflecting on calls for funders to spend more from their endowments, given the unprecedented need created by the pandemic.

There are no easy solutions, and we are fully aware that our contributions are only powerful if they are part of a much larger movement. That said, we are pleased to share news about several new funding commitments we’ve made to meet this particular moment in our nation’s history.

In order to respond to the urgency of this time, our Board of Directors has authorized a 7% payout of our assets. These additional funds – which are 1% more than our annual giving and 2% more than what foundations are required by law to give – will provide funding for new initiatives in this calendar year. Given that Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – across health, housing and economic loss – we hope this funding will begin to lay the groundwork for, and offer pathways to, long-term housing stability and opportunity for BIPOC.

Our Meet the Moment grants will support:

Bipartisan Housing Policy Agenda project

This project, out of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), seeks to build support for near-term and longer-term policies that holistically address the growing housing crisis in the country and promote racial equity. While there is considerable interest in Congress to address housing affordability challenges facing working families, there is no organization that currently advocates for bipartisan housing policies. Recognizing the critical importance of housing to the ongoing national conversation about racial justice, BPC is committed to thoughtfully recruiting a diverse and dynamic group of experts and leaders for this effort who can inform and educate policymakers.

Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response

The Trust’s initial COVID-19 response grants funded the first three phases of this work, in collaboration with several national organizations and led by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities. The Framework provided guidance on the best ways to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic and into the future, centered around racial justice and equity approaches. This next phase will focus on long-term and systemic change by re-imagining the shelter/crisis response; evaluating COVID-19 responses in communities; and providing direct support to address the long-term effects of COVID-19 on people experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Direct Cash Transfer Program for Youth Empowerment

In conjunction with several partners, Chapin Hall is developing and evaluating a direct cash transfer program for youth experiencing homelessness. This funding will support a pilot group of 30 youth and will build the infrastructure, partnerships, and evidence needed to scale an effective, empowering, and equity-focused solution to youth homelessness.

Connecticut Public Accountability Project

CT Public is launching a three-person investigative journalism unit that will deliver in-depth watchdog reporting on topics of interest and concern to statewide and regional audiences, with a particular focus on topics that examine and raise awareness of systemic inequities.

Homelessness Accountability, Research & Communications Campaign (interim title)

This project aims to change the debate about who becomes homeless, and why, and build public will to support proven solutions to homelessness. Funding will be directed to build out the communications infrastructure of the campaign, which will include a rapid response war room and state-based communications support for grassroots organizations.

Connecticut Homelessness Prevention Model Evaluation

Connecticut has a rare opportunity to partner with both national and local organizations to support the development and refinement of a risk tool that will help target resources to those most at-risk of homelessness. The project, in partnership with Department of Housing and Statewide Coordinated Access Network, includes a formative and summative evaluation to assess the overall outcomes of a homelessness prevention model.

Private Equity Stakeholder Project

The Private Equity Stakeholder Project seeks to lift up the voices of people impacted by private equity investments in rental housing. By partnering with community and housing groups that organize lower income residents, the Project focuses on tracking evictions at LIHTC-backed, HUD-backed, and other rent restricted properties and challenging rent increases, evictions and foreclosures by Wall Street landlords.

Grassroots Regranting Program

The Right to the City Alliance will use their national grassroots network of 90 community organizations to grow and amplify the leadership of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities so they have greater impact in local, regional, and national housing policy decisions.

This additional funding is a significant commitment for a foundation of our size, and we are deeply grateful to our Board for their support as we navigate these challenging times. Their leadership, coupled with our grantee partners’ relentless work and dedication to ending homelessness in America, gives us hope.

With gratitude,

Aimee Hendrigan
Vice President of Programs

Published on November 11, 2020