New Equity Focus for the Employment and Education Opportunity Fund

by Rebecca Allen October 3, 2019

At the Melville Trust, we are committed to incorporating a racial equity lens into all aspects of our work to end homelessness. We pledge to be intentional about calling out, and acting on, racial inequities in our field. We’ve been working to deepen our understanding of racial exclusion and what equitable grant practices look like. One learning is that it’s critical for us to amplify new voices and support organizations that are deeply engaged in their communities, with leadership that represents these communities. We identified one opportunity to “walk the walk” in our equity journey this year in the request for applications for our Employment and Education Opportunity Fund.

The Prison Policy Initiative found that people coming out of jail or prison are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. We also know people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system throughout the country. In Connecticut, African Americans are incarcerated at 9.4 times the rate of white Americans. Compounding that disparity is the societal stigma associated with people with criminal records which limits, and often prevents, their ability to obtain housing or employment. This year, the Trust is repurposing the Employment & Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) to better support individuals coming out of incarceration.

The Employment and Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) provides modest, highly flexible support to cover an individual’s essential educational or employment related expenses. Small, but essential costs—a bus pass, books for a class, tools for an apprenticeship, childcare for a parent in school, a decent suit for an interview—can make the difference between being able to prepare for and land a job or remain unemployed.

The EOF is different from most of the Melville Trust’s grantmaking, which is primarily focused on larger-scale systemic changes to end homelessness. We are grateful to the activists and providers who inspired this fund by explaining how difficult it is to find flexible dollars to meet the basic needs of their clients. We welcome your continued feedback on our grantmaking and our efforts to implement racial equity into our practice.

Connecticut-based nonprofits serving those coming out of incarceration can apply for the Employment and Education Opportunity Fund here through Nov 1st.

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