The grants to the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, SEARCH Homeless Services, The Beacon and U.S. VETS bring the Foundation’s total giving to Houston’s coordinated homeless response system to $45 million.
Houston Endowment today announced a $15 million investment in Houston’s ongoing collaborative effort to reduce homelessness with grants to four key local partners: Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County ($10 million); SEARCH Homeless Services ($3 million); The Beacon ($1 million); and U.S.VETS ($1 million).
The organizations are part of The Way Home, the coordinated homeless response system that since 2012 has brought together more than 100 public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the Houston area to move the needle on reducing homelessness by putting the most vulnerable people into permanent housing with supportive wraparound services.
The public-private partnership has moved more than 28,000 people into permanent housing, resulted in a more than a 60% decrease in overall homelessness in just over a decade, and reduced reliance on costly jail or emergency room visits for people in crisis, resulting in Houston having one of the lowest rates of homelessness among major metropolitan areas and becoming a model nationwide.
The new grants from Houston Endowment are intended to help carry this work forward and attract the continued support of local government and philanthropic and business communities to coordinate efforts to reduce homelessness in the region.
“We want Houston to be the first major metropolitan area in the U.S. to end chronic homelessness,” said Ann B. Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment. “We hope these dollars can supercharge the transformational work already being done by all the organizations involved, but our investment alone is not enough. We need the continued partnership and support of the city of Houston, Harris County, and business and philanthropic sectors to reach this ambitious goal. Let’s not settle for maintaining the status quo. Let’s continue to model what can be accomplished when you build coalitions across the public and private sectors — real, impactful change for Houston and its people.”
In 2011, Houston had the sixth-largest homeless population in the country. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development designated Houston as a priority community, which opened up access to additional technical expertise. Agencies working on the issue joined together under the umbrella of The Way Home and the leadership of the Coalition for the Homeless to work together — sharing information, streamlining the intake process, and coordinating services, thus reducing the time to provide someone with permanent housing. Houston Endowment previously contributed $30 million over 10 years, an investment that helped leverage additional public funding, as well as provided strategic support.
The Way Home has benefitted from the support of local philanthropic groups, the business community, local housing authorities and local government, including former Mayor Annise Parker, current Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Harris County Commissioners. The city and county have contributed federal entitlement dollars, as well as staffing resources, to help carry out the work. The Way Home also has won federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, largely to maintain the status quo of available permanent housing and supportive services spots.
The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a capacity-building organization. It has served as the lead agency for The Way Home since its inception, bringing together dozens of direct service organizations — including SEARCH Homeless Services, The Beacon and U.S.VETS — to work in tandem to secure housing and services for the most vulnerable people and monitor real-time data and trends. The Way Home was profiled in a 2022 New York Times story about Houston’s progress on homelessness.
“This extraordinary grant from Houston Endowment will set us up with solid footing on the path to long-term sustainability. It will amplify our ability to do what we do best: build capacity for the entire local homeless response system,” said Michael Nichols, president and CEO of the Coalition. “By uniting partners and maximizing resources, we address the system so direct service providers can address the most urgent need: helping people end their homelessness. We believe we can make homelessness in our community rare, brief and nonrecurring. Since the inception of The Way Home in 2012, the Houston Endowment has been the philanthropic
leader in developing a homeless response system that is organized, coordinated, pragmatic and scalable. We are so grateful to Houston Endowment for their commitment to our work.”
Especially critical have been the ongoing, on-the-ground efforts of the nonprofit organizations that work directly with people experiencing homelessness, providing not only housing, but also a suite of wraparound services, including case management, counseling, career development, legal services, health care, emergency shelter, educational resources, and more.
SEARCH Homeless Services is one of the city’s leading service providers for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Through skilled case management, SEARCH’s staff effectively engages people from the street, supports their successful movement into stable housing and builds their overall stability and quality of life through increased income, improved mental and physical health, and connection to community. To break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and homelessness by investing in the next generation, SEARCH also operates the House of Tiny Treasures preschool for children ages 21 months through 5 years who have experienced homelessness.
“For over 30 years, SEARCH Homeless Services has been serving our unhoused neighbors with compassion, dignity and respect as we help them find their way back home, regain their stability and rebuild their lives. Houston Endowment has been a longtime partner and supporter of SEARCH’s work, and we are humbled by the trust and confidence the Endowment has placed in SEARCH,” said Alexis Loving, president and CEO of SEARCH Homeless Services.
“Homelessness is an issue that requires the support and involvement of the entire community. Thank you to Houston Endowment for being part of the solution and for recognizing the impact that SEARCH and our partners in The Way Home have made in the community and for the individuals we serve. These gifts to SEARCH and our partners demonstrate the Endowment’s overwhelming commitment to this issue and to ensuring that Houston continues to lead the way in tackling homelessness.”
Meeting the essential needs of individuals experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect has been a cornerstone of The Beacon since its inception in 2007. Five days a week, breakfast and hot, homemade lunches are served to clients visiting The Beacon’s Day Center. In addition to meals, individuals can access private shower cabins and have their clothes washed in a fullservice laundry area. These activities provide opportunities for engagement and next-step services that include civil legal aid through The Beacon’s law program — Brigid’s Hope, a 12-month intensive program for women who were previously incarcerated — and most importantly, connection to housing case management with The Beacon’s Coordinated Access team. The Beacon’s ultimate goal for each individual is to help them find a way out of homelessness and into safe housing.
“Over the last 16 years, The Beacon has grown and evolved into a more robust organization that provides a broad range of services. From meals and showers to housing assessments and navigation, more offerings are now available thanks to the unwavering support from our partners. Houston Endowment has been a key funder since the very beginning, and we are so honored to be a recipient of this transformational investment for our community. This grant will help us bolster our infrastructure and hone our services to meet the needs of individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” said Becky Landes, CEO of The Beacon. “The Beacon has become widely known as a place for people to receive services and trusted information. We continue to see an increase in individuals who are struggling with acute crises. With this
funding, we can respond to their immediate needs and assist them on the path to safe, supportive housing.”
U.S.VETS-Houston is the largest nonprofit organization serving veterans and families in Houston through transitional and permanent supportive housing, counseling and career services, case management, and wraparound care. Since 1997, U.S.VETS–Houston has served more than 300 veterans each day in the greater Houston community, helping them to live with dignity and independence.
“Thanks to the leadership and Board of the Houston Endowment, U.S.VETS-Houston will be able to move into our new home and expand our work to ensure that no one who served our country is left sleeping on our Houston streets,” said David Traxler (USMC), executive director of U.S.VETS-Houston. “We’re grateful to the Houston Endowment for recognizing the vital impact of U.S.VETS’ veteran-specific homeless prevention and intervention programs. With longtime support of our veterans from community partners including the Houston Endowment, U.S.VETS-Houston remains the largest provider of housing, mental health care and employment services for homeless and at-risk veterans across Houston.”
Houston Endowment is a private foundation that partners with others to achieve a vibrant and inclusive region where all residents can thrive. We advance equity of opportunity through deep commitments to PreK-12 public education and civic engagement; support cultural assets that engage and connect us; and drive sustainable change across our region.
Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a nonprofit organization that acts as a catalyst, uniting partners and maximizing resources to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing with supportive services. Since 2012, the Coalition has been proud to serve as the lead agency to The Way Home, the collective effort to prevent and end homelessness in the Houston region.
SEARCH Homeless Services is one of the lead nonprofit agencies in the city serving those who are homeless. Since 1989, SEARCH has pursued a mission of providing hope, creating opportunity and transforming lives for the thousands of men, women and children experiencing homelessness in our community. SEARCH works to help people move from the streets back into homes of their own and then begin to rebuild their lives through improved health, increased income and connection to community.
The Beacon is located in the heart of downtown Houston and provides essential and next-step services to restore hope and help end homelessness in Houston. Nearly 40 Beacon staff members and 1,200+ volunteers served 4,500 individuals last year. In addition to providing meals, private showers, full-service laundry, civil legal aid, case management, mail pick-up, and access to medical care, The Beacon acts as the front door for engaging individuals in permanent housing and wraparound social services care, a regional effort known as The Way Home that maximizes the services of 100+ partner agencies working together.
U.S.VETS is the largest nonprofit organization with boots on the ground to combat America’s veteran homeless crisis head-on. Our holistic approach provides housing, mental health and career programs, and supportive services to help veterans rebuild and thrive. With 40 residential and service sites nationwide, U.S.VETS is uniquely positioned to help veterans and their families successfully transition to civilian life.