Giving Compass' Take:

Debbie Reznick, Senior Program Officer of Polk Bros. Foundation, discusses efforts to end homelessness, increase access to justice, and strengthen the capacity of nonprofits in Chicago.

• How can funders be intentional with their donations to make sure that they are investing in structural change?

• Read about driving systemic change by finding the root cause.

One area where I see both of these exemplified – collaboration and an increased focus on racial justice – is within the national movement to end youth homelessness. I continue to learn a lot from the work of A Way Home America, my colleagues at Funders Together to End Homelessness, and the advocates at True Colors United about innovative solutions to youth homelessness and about how to center the voices and experiences of youth of color and LGBTQ youth.

While the work on youth homelessness is a good example of community coordination, there are other areas where we need to ramp up collaborative work. For instance, foundations have typically made sporadic and episodic investments in strengthening nonprofits, particularly on Chicago’s south and west sides. We know strong neighborhood organizations are essential to moving the needle on the city’s most persistent challenges. So we are working with other local foundations to create a significant, sustained capacity-building effort that will prioritize investments in organizations serving and led by people of color, initially on Chicago’s west side.

What Matters Most for Chicago:

The first is addressing systemic racism and its impacts. Metropolitan Planning Council’s Cost of Segregation report highlights the economic and institutional damage that will continue in our region as long as we allow disinvestment and deep racial disparities to persist, including thousands of lost lives and billions of dollars in lost potential.

The second is working more on intersectionality. It’s easier to approach problems as a one-off issue – someone needs housing, or a job, or an attorney. But to really make change, at the individual and at the system levels, we need to better align our efforts and our limited resources to maximize impact.

Read the full article about Chicago's potential to end homelessness and strengthen nonprofits by Deborah Reznick at Funders Together to End Homelessness.