Photo courtesy of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Donor Legacy Supports Transformation of NYC’s Response to Mental Health Crises

In life, Helen Rehr led a distinguished, trailblazing career in social work.  She was known for revolutionizing and standardizing the field of social work, and her long career at Mt Sinai, where she retired in her role as Chair of the Division of Social Work in 1986.  Ms. Rehr was also a longtime donor at FJC.  Since her death in 2013, FJC has honored her philanthropic legacy by honoring her wishes through a Board-advised Fund, “to identify worthwhile projects determined by FJC to be used for social services, research or training projects all to enhance health and mental health care for vulnerable populations within the State of Israel and the City of New York.”

This year FJC issued a Request for Proposals that put a timely focus on her programmatic wishes: “organizations engaged in social work research and/or training projects focused on developing alternatives to the current police response when encountering the mentally ill in NY.” Each year, the New York Police Department (NYPD) responds to nearly 200,000 calls regarding individuals experiencing mental health crises.  In the past five years alone, notwithstanding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s implementation of crisis intervention training for police officers, 18 individuals were fatally shot by police when experiencing a mental health crisis, and 15 of those 18 individuals were Black or Brown.

“It is high time to transform the way New York responds to mental health crises an ensure that all New Yorkers are provided the services they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

Ruth Lowenkron, Director, Disability Justice Program, NYLPI

The winning response to the RFP came from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), working in coordination with program partner Community Access.  The $100,000 grant will fund the two organizations to advocate for New York City to establish a non-police response to mental health crises, which will consist of trained peers (those with lived mental health experience) and independent emergency medical technicians whose aim is to de-escalate violence and administer proper assistance through a non-police mental healthcare response. 

Recognizing that creating an alternate response to mental health crises means doing as much as possible to ensure crises never happen in the first place, NYLPI will also develop a training geared to such frontline workers as social workers to de-escalate crises, building on a Community Access training module that seeks to equip workers with the knowledge and de-escalation skills to make compassionate connections with people in crisis.

“We could not be more grateful for the FJC’s generous support of this critical work,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Director of NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program who spearheads NYLPI’s work in this area.  “For far too long, our citizens who experience mental health crises have been neglected and worse.  It is high time to transform the way New York responds to mental health crises an ensure that all New Yorkers are provided the services they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

NYLPI will leverage the grant from the Helen Rehr fund as a match for their #MentalHealthCareNotPolice campaign, which NYLPI and its coalition partners will be highlighting throughout the year in a series of events in public parks.  Visit NYLPI’s website for more information.

A public space revitalized by Doh Eain, a social enterprise active in Yangon, Myanmar.

Webinar Recap: Promising Models of Heritage Investing

April 21, 2021 (New York, NY) – FJC hosted a webinar to highlight its strategic partner the Cultural Heritage Finance Alliance (CHiFA), a new initiative that promotes heritage-led regeneration through collaborative and innovative financing solutions.   The event was moderated by Sam Marks, FJC’s Chief Executive Officer and highlighted two promising examples of organizations that embody CHiFA intends to support: Doh Eain and Turquoise Mountain.

A full recording of the webinar is available at this link.

“Our goal is to bring the public sector and private sector together in joint initiatives.”

Bonnie Burnham, Co-Founder, CHiFA

Mr. Marks kicked off the event by explaining FJC’s role providing operational and fiscal support to CHiFA.  As a foundation of philanthropic funds that brings economies of scale to philanthropists (by sponsoring Donor Advised Funds) and organizations (through fiscal sponsorship), FJC will provide operational and administrative support, including servicing CHiFA’s loan fund.  CHiFA is currently raising $3 million to provide catalytic, early stage capital to heritage regeneration projects around the world.  With FJC administering the loan fund, CHiFA will be able to stay lean and focused on mission.

CHiFA Co-Founder Bonnie Burnham described how CHiFA evolved out of her many decades of experience at the World Monuments Fund.   Her previous work was largely focused on revitalizing individual sites, using philanthropy to leverage public sector.  Her work at CHiFA has a more intentionally broader economic and social impact in mind, through nonprofit partners that facilitate investments in enterprises and the urban fabric.  “We’re trying to create a methodology that can be widely applied,” Ms. Burnham explained.  “Our goal is to bring the public sector and private sector together in joint initiatives.”

Aurora Kazi Bassett, the Director of Outreach & Policy for Doh Eain described a promising model of the type CHiFA has in mind: her organization’s work in Yangon, Myanmar.  Doh Eain is a social enterprise that uses private investment (and some grants) to restore and maintain small and medium sized, privately owned historic residential buildings, and also improve public spaces that can be used by the community.  “These are not the big, beautiful palaces that we go to visit on holiday, but the shops, houses, and office buildings that have been used by normal people’s homes.” Doh Eain’s model does not purchase the properties outright, but takes on the risks of revitalization during a discrete leasehold period and returns ownership back to the original owner-residents.

Shoshana Stewart, CEO of Turquoise Mountain, presented another model of heritage-led regeneration.  After describing some of the organization’s successes in the Old City of Kabul, Afgahnistan, Ms. Stewart described their vision for Umm Qais in Jordan, a unique architectural site at the crossroads of the Middle East, adjoining Syria, Lebanon and Israel.   With layers of architectural and cultural assets, including Roman ruins, Byzantine period mosaics, and a ruined Ottoman period village, Turquoise Mountain intends to leverage tourism, which a cornerstone of country’s economy. “Typically when international tourists come, they come to the big sites: Petra, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum.  In the north of Jordan you’ve got a number of sites, but there is nowhere to stay.  If we can get the accommodations right, we have the potential for both international and domestic tourists. There’s significant potential.”

Common across the Doh Eain and Turquoise Mountain examples is an enterprise model that combines some philanthropic grant resources with more conventional investments that offer a return to investors.   In Doh Eain’s case, rental income from the residential and commercial, properties covers the cost of the physical revitalization, and also provides an income stream to the building owners and a return to impact investors.  Doh Eain uses some of the profits, along with grants, to implement public space work that is more purely subsidized.  Turquoise Mountain will seek investment capital to develop the ruined Ottoman village into accommodation (which will ultimately generate revenue).  Simultaneously, they work with a range of grantmaking partners, including development agencies and philanthropy, for the pieces of the project that are critical to its ultimate success but not expected to generate revenue.

In advance of their capital raise, CHiFA has documented the emergence of heritage regeneration NGOs with investable business models in their recently published white paper Impact and Identity, Investing in Heritage for Sustainable Development. Says Ms. Burnham, “We have to convince impact investors that heritage is a missing link in the circular economy strategy, bringing human environments into compliance with meeting our goals for sustainable development.  This is where there’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Photo courtesy of Cultural Heritage Finance Alliance

CHiFA Issues White Paper on Heritage-Led Regeneration and Sustainable Development

FJC celebrates the release of partner organization The Cultural Heritage Finance Alliance (CHiFA)’s report Impact and Identity, Investing in Heritage for Sustainable Development.  The white paper makes the case for historic resources as investable assets for the comprehensive and sustainable revitalization of many at-risk and culturally significant communities throughout the world. Particularly timely, the report reflects on successful models to define a path forward that is an antidote to environmental degradation, civic erosion, the loss of irreplaceable cultural treasures and the displacement of local populations.

The report presents studies of six examples from across the world where heritage investment has restored vibrancy to historic urban centers that had been in economic and cultural decline.  A housing investment company in Amsterdam, a World Bank loan in Fez, a visionary private investor in Mexico City, entrepreneurial businesses in Panama City and Yangon, and a government-supported loan program in the UK succeeded in catalyzing more than a billion USD in leveraged capital. 

Dynamic success requires a complement of NGO engagement, private investment and mission-motivated entrepreneurs who together can advance heritage preservation at the urban and district levels.

FJC formed a strategic partnership with CHiFA last year as loan servicer and finance administrator.  As CHiFA raises philanthropic loan capital to invest in sites globally, FJC’s role will be to manage the operations of aggregating and deploying these funds, including servicing for its international project loan fund. This arrangement will allow CHiFA to remain lean and focused on mission, with FJC leveraging its scaled operational platform to deliver back office support and ancillary services. FJC will also manage payments for most of CHiFA’s day to day expenses.

The Cultural Heritage Finance Alliance (CHiFA) was founded in 2019 to promote heritage-led regeneration through innovative financing solutions.   Its goal is to position historically and culturally significant built environments as anchors of environmental, social and economic development.  Bonnie Burnham, president and founder of CHiFA and president emerita of the World Monuments Fund, stated: “Preserving heritage is among the targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but it is not on the radar screen of investors and institutions who are aligning behind sustainable development.  And yet there are inspiring and highly impactful examples of how it can transform the places we live, for the better.  We want to call attention to these examples so that people around the world can learn from them.”  

Public agencies are responsible for heritage preservation in most countries.  But with an increasing number of sites under protection, decreasing budgets, and low political priority, these agencies face a crisis of inadequate resources.  There is a tendency to focus on landmark structures, whereas the more encompassing urban fabric — where people live and work — offers the greatest potential for impact. While public commitments are necessary, dynamic success requires a complement of NGO engagement, private investment and mission-motivated entrepreneurs who together can advance heritage preservation at the urban and district levels. Currently, no entity exists within the heritage conservation field to facilitate these partnerships and to align capital to bring projects to fruition.

CHiFA’s research, conducted over the course of 2020, has revealed a spectrum of  successful models. The full case study analyses are linked to the appendix, and will be released as a second volume in early April 2021. 

Gary Hattem, a co-founder of CHiFA and former head of Global Social Finance at Deutsche Bank, concluded: “The experiences, ideas, strategies, and plans presented in this paper explore a new frontier: that of how to go about healing our planet and preserving the richness of the world’s cultural assets. CHiFA builds upon lessons learned to identify a financially viable ecosystem capable of validating heritage sites by leveraging their irreplaceable value to the benefit of existing residents.” 

"3-1/2 Feet of Snow" by WSDOT is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Nonprofits Activate for Texas Storm Relief

FJC is offering these recommendations of critical nonprofit organizations providing relief and recovery during the winter storms that are affecting Texas and other southern states unaccustomed to extreme weather.

We invite you to review this Disaster Profile from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, as an excellent primer on the impacts of the storm.  They note, “Unlike many natural disasters, the loss of homes due to Uri and Viola is minimal. However, the impact on infrastructure, especially power grids and water systems, is immense.”

Funds

Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) EIN: 45-5257937 has a Disaster Recovery Fund that has a category for U.S. Winter Storms. In addition to awarding grants for specific emergencies, the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund makes strategic investments in research, preparedness, and planning, fully demonstrating the value of a streamlined, long-term approach.

Communities Foundation of Texas – EIN: 75-0964565 – CFT has launched a North Texas Winter Weather Crisis Relief Fund which has a goal of providing emergency assistance and long-term recovery needs related to the weather crisis in North Texas.

Multi-state Nonprofits

American Red Cross – EIN: 53-0196605 – ARC provides emergency disaster relief including shelters, meals and snacks, health and mental health support, clean-up supplies, hygiene kits and more to communities affected by disasters. They have over 150 congregate shelters open (across several states) and are providing feeding and safe shelter.

Salvation Army – EIN: 22-2406433 Provides logistical supply chain management getting food, water and blankets into communities, coordinating deliveries from food banks and operating warming centers.

Food Banks

Southeast Texas Food BankEIN: 76-0338721 (Beaumont area – mostly urban area with significant poverty)

Houston Food BankEIN: 74-2181456 (Greater Houston area – largest food bank and serves as hub for three other smaller, regional food banks)

Central Texas Food BankEIN: 74-2217350 (Austin area)

North Texas Food BankEIN: 75-1785357  (Dallas area)

Local / Grassroots Efforts

CrowdSource Rescue – (EIN: 47-1963607.  Note: make donation to their fiscal sponsor Outdoorsmen in Action and specify “funds are designated for CrowdSource Rescue”) Organizing a quick reaction to senior citizens facing dangerous temperature during the Texas freeze. The operation is two-fold: 1) transport vulnerable populations to a safe place and 2) deliver food, water, and other needed supplies.

RAICES – The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services – EIN: 74-2436920 – Promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Programs include legal services, social programs, bond assistance, and an advocacy team focused on changing the narrative around immigration in this country.

West Street Recovery – EIN: 82-2708194 – Grassroots organization in Houston, TX which was born out of the recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey to build community power. Their driving principle is to work together with community members, not for them, or on their behalf.

Our Vision

All New York City youth and families with children will have a safe and stable place to call home and a community of support.

Our Strategy

The NYC Fund to End Youth & Family Homelessness uses its resources and influence to transform our city’s homelessness systems.  Currently, those systems function primarily to manage the crisis of homelessness.  We seek instead to prevent and end that crisis.

To do this, we support innovative, evidence-based, promising approaches that help youth and families facing housing instability keep their homes or move quickly into a new permanent home that is safe, stable, and affordable. In each approach, we seek to leverage and transform major systems so that they operate to promote housing stability as part of their core function (e.g. housing and shelter; education; foster care; child and family welfare; health, including mental and behavioral health; law enforcement and justice).

Shelter offers a place to sleep at night, but the solution to homelessness is a home.  Investing in access to quality, affordable homes is investing in our children’s – and our city’s – future.

Our Values

The Fund’s core values are to advance racial equity, LGTBQ equity, and lived expertise in the design of our housing and homelessness systems and in our own governance and operations.

Contrary to what many believe, people are not homeless simply because they made bad choices or had bad luck.   All of us make bad choices and have bad luck at different points in our lives, but all of us do not become homeless.  Those who do are those of us who do not have the protection of wealth and ownership – either in our own household or in our extended network – to cushion us when we have bad luck or make a mistake. 

Since our society has long excluded people who are Black, indigenous, and people of color from wealth and ownership opportunities (especially those who are also LGBTQ), we have limited the ability of these individuals, households, and communities to build that cushion of net worth.  As a direct result, it is disproportionately people in these communities who face homelessness when something goes wrong.

Moreover, the systems we have built to manage homelessness often reinforce inequity rather than reduce it, all too frequently denying people dignity, autonomy, and control over their own lives.  These systems are often also inefficient, expensive, and counterproductive, offering take-it-or-leave-it, one-size-fits-nobody interventions that don’t help people quickly find a stable home.

Instead, we must build systems founded on principles of equity and dignity that give people the resources they need to design their own solutions and achieve their own goals.

Our Governance

The Fund is committed to centering racial and LGBTQ equity and lived expertise of youth and family homelessness in its governance and operations.  As part of that commitment, the Fund currently reserves four seats on its Steering Committee for the two Co-Coordinators of New York City’s Youth Action Board and the two Housing Policy Fellows of New York City’s Family Homelessness Coalition

These Steering Committee members draw on their own lived expertise in New York City homelessness systems and partner with our philanthropic members to lead the Fund’s strategy, policy, and grantmaking work.  They also currently lead the Fund in developing a longer-term strategy for how to continue to advance equity and lived expertise as core values of what we do and how we do it.

The Fund is currently co-chaired by Beatriz de la Torre, Managing Director of Housing & Homelessness at Trinity Church Wall Street, and Rhonda Jackson, Housing Policy Fellow of the New York City Family Homelessness Coalition.

Our Contributors

The Fund’s current contributors are:

  • Block-Leavitt Foundation
  • Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation
  • Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Melville Charitable Trust
  • Pinkerton Foundation
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • Trinity Church Wall Street

Special thanks to FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds for hosting the Fund.

Contact

For information about contributing to the Fund, applying for grant, or for press inquiries, please contact the Fund’s senior advisors – Barbara Carlson (barbcoccodrilli AT gmail DOT com) and John Kimble (jgkimble AT gmail DOT com).

FJC’s Webinar with UN Foundation: “Global Health in the Pandemic Age”

In times of global crisis, philanthropy can play a critical role in deploying resources quickly as governments and multi-lateral organizations mobilize for action. In our latest webinar, “Global Health in the Pandemic Age,” Kate Dodson, VP of Global Health at the UN Foundation spoke about how individual donors came together with corporate, foundation, and others to enable to the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to over 173 countries. “We used a nimble mix of partnership to get this done,” said Ms. Dodson, which included over 631,000 individuals from 193 countries (FJC donors among them!). The conversation was moderated by FJC’s Chief Executive Officer, Sam Marks. See the full recording here.

FJC Donors Join Forces to Battle COVID-19

FJC’s first-ever Collective Giving Campaign, focused on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, raised over $147,000 for six outstanding organizations that are tackling the impacts of the pandemic in a range of ways: food security, employment, grassroots organizing, small business support, public health, and research and development. During the campaign period in May 2020, donor contributions were matched dollar-for-dollar by FJC’s Special Initiatives Fund.

Over 90 percent of participating donors who responded to a post-campaign survey found many compelling reasons to participate, such as the elevation of strong, effective organizations (many of which were new to them); the ability to align their resources with other donors at FJC; and the opportunity to have their gifts matched, effectively doubling their giving. As one donor said in her survey response, “Let’s do more work together!”

The Center for Effective Philanthropy published a blog post by Sam Marks, CEO of FJC, with further reflections on the successes and challenges of the campaign. “The initiative suggests the power that DAF sponsors can bring when they provide focused guidance to rally disparate donors around a common cause,” he writes.

FJC also hosted a subsequent webinar highlighting the work of Food Bank for New York City, the top choice among FJC donors. Food Bank CEO Leslie Gordon spoke of the operational and logistical challenges of keeping food flowing where it has been needed most during the pandemic, and cautioned that the economic fallout of the crisis may create even greater need. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” See a summary and link to the full webinar recording here.

Table of funds

Highlights of FJC’s Webinar with Leslie Gordon, CEO of Food Bank for New York City [VIDEO]

Leslie Gordon, CEO of Food Bank for New York City, joined FJC’s CEO Sam Marks and dozens of FJC donors for our first-ever “Lunch and Learn” webinar on June 30 to discuss Food Bank’s extraordinary work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Food Bank was the most popular choice by FJC donors during its recent Collective Giving Campaign, receiving over $85,000 from FJC and its donors to mitigate the effects of the pandemic among New York City’s most vulnerable.

Gordon placed her own professional journey in a multigenerational family context, contrasting the informal approach to voluntary food delivery service in her grandfather’s day with the scale, sophistication and data driven approach of the Food Bank. Food Bank’s network of food pantries, community kitchens, and local, civic, and religious organizations are committed to preserving the dignity and choice of the individuals and families they work with, and they address food insecurity with the larger goal of developing New Yorkers’ self-sufficiency with other programs and services. Across all the partners, she said, “This is a human-centered problem, we want to treat people with respect and care.”

She also spoke of the operational and logistical challenges of keeping food flowing where it has been needed most during the pandemic, and cautioned that the economic fallout of the crisis may create even greater need. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

See the full webinar recording here.

Photo credit: Ken Teerer, courtesy of SELC

2019 Year in Review: Revolving Funds for Legal Impact

Imaginative FJC donors have created specialized accounts that allow for revolving funds for recoverable expenses, so that nonprofits can recycle grant funds on an ongoing basis.

In 2019 organizations focused on criminal justice reform and impact litigation were particularly active users of these resources, putting nearly $1 million in aggregate to work for their missions. These organizations included: the Government Accountability Project, was able to represent whistleblowers exposing abuses of public trust throughout the federal government as well as corporate employees within the banking, energy, food, and health care industries; the New York Civil Liberties Union, is bringing an important voting rights case to challenge violations of the federal Voting Rights Act; the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has reached a settlement with a private company that will result in the largest coal ash cleanup ever in America; Brooklyn Community Bail Fund secured the freedom of 23 immigrants held in ICE detention and at imminent risk of deportation, and reunited them with their families and communities.