Community Foundations Honored for High-Impact Government Partnerships

The California Community Foundation has been leading efforts to build affordable housing in Los Angeles to help address homelessness in the city. Photo Credit: HUD.gov

The California Community Foundation has been leading efforts to build affordable housing in Los Angeles to help address homelessness in the city. Photo Credit: HUD.gov

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Council on Foundations this week honored five community foundations for their work in partnering with government to improve conditions in their communities.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Council on Foundations’ Secretary’s Awards for Public-Philanthropic partnerships recognized innovative projects that addressed issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, criminal justice reform and broadband internet access.

The five community foundations include:

California Community Foundation:  With philanthropic partners and the City of Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation committed to addressing that city’s homelessness crisis with a goal of expanding the number of affordable housing units in production from 300 to 1,000 units a year.

HUD and the Council on Foundations mentioned the foundation’s focus on “both preparing permanent supporting housing developers to effectively utilize funds to create high-quality housing, as well as providing upfront investments to leverage public monies.”

Community Foundation of Utah: The Community Foundation of Utah was recognized for its work in implementing a Pay for Success (PFS) program to address homelessness and high crime recidivism rates in Salt Lake County.

Nearly 75 percent of all high-risk offenders in the county were returning to the criminal justice systems within four years of release.

With that in mind, the foundation brought together investors, government agencies and service providers to create a program in which the investors cover upfront costs of programs in the community that work on a range of issues that address criminal justice and homelessness, including addiction recovery, emergency shelters, and housing.  If the groups achieve goals, the county repays the original investors.

An independent evaluator determines whether projects are achieving the metrics.

Parkersburg Area Community Foundation: This community foundation, which serves a region across several states in the Ohio Valley, was awarded for its Civic Leaders Fellowship Program, which pairs promising college students with area nonprofits and other community groups to provide those students with work experience and expose them to future opportunities in their community, where the economy often suffers due to talented young people leaving the region.

According to the Foundation, 98 Fellows have completed at least one year in the program since its inception in 2011.

Puerto Rico Community Foundation: The Puerto Rico Community Foundation was honored for its role rebuilding the territory after Hurricane Maria and Irma ravaged communities in 2017, leaving many without electricity, water and infrastructure their economy depended upon.

The foundation, in collaboration with many community organizations, residents,  nonprofits and government agencies, was recognized by HUD primarily for its housing strategy in Loiza, a part of the island where more than 1,000 houses were damaged but were not able to be helped by FEMA or other federal dollars, the awardees explain. The foundation and its partners rebuilt 20 houses last year.

“For us, it has been a great achievement to see the results of this partnership have returned security to families who practically lost everything; it is certainly another example of how together we promote the increase of capital in our communities,” the foundation’s president Dr. Nelson I. Tarrats said in a statement following their award.

Cleveland Foundation: Working with a variety of partners, including several area libraries and housing network, the Cleveland Foundation has been able to increase broadband internet access in low-income communities through libraries, including providing hotspots around libraries and neighborhoods. It has also given nearly 500 computers to qualifying residents, according to HUD.

Amanda Palleschi