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$5M grant gives a boost to area homelessness prevention agency as federal funds wither away

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Since it started in 2007, Strategies to End Homelessness has focused on preventing homelessness in the Cincinnati area by coordinating local nonprofit organizations like shelters and food banks.

A significant part of the agency's mission is to prevent homelessness in the first place by providing financial support to people facing eviction or unstable living situations.

The organization recentlyannounced it would receive a $5 million private grant from the Bezos Day One Families Fund, a nonprofit fund started by billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2018 to combat homelessness.

For the past few years, federal stimulus money received during the pandemic helped people avoid homelessness, but the Strategies to End Homelessness CEO Kevin Finn says those funds are nearly gone.

"Even though the economy was in the tank, and there were so many problems, we actually — because of all that stimulus money — saw a decline in homeless and literal homelessness. But those dollars are now going away," Finn said.

Now in 2022, Finn says the situation has changed. As rents increase and many incomes remain low, more families are facing eviction and are at risk of becoming homeless.

Strategies to End Homelessness notes that other non-stimulus funding from the federal government can not be used on homelessness prevention efforts, but instead must be used to help people who are already homeless and seeking shelter.

"To some extent, the timing of this Day One Families Fund gift is perfect," Finn said. "We will have access to the $5 million right at a time when the stimulus money is largely going away."

The donation is the largest private grant in the organization's history.

In the immediate future, the funds can be used to cover the cost of rent and deposits for people either facing eviction or in need of a new home. But with a donation this large, Finn says the money can also go toward a more strategic approach to preventing homelessness.

"What we really want to be able to do is do more with data available to be able to predict now and in the future, which families are most likely to be homeless so that we can intervene and help them as early as possible," he said.

The idea behind this approach is to step in before the threat of homelessness becomes urgent for people. Ultimately, Finn says the freedom provided by this private funding could help local organizations save funds in the long run while still reducing the number of people facing homelessness.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.