Jeff Bezos has now given nearly $640 million to support homeless families

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ fund to support homeless families announced $117 million in new grants on Tuesday to organizations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, which is a part of a $2 billion commitment Bezos made in 2018 to support homeless families and to run free preschools.

That brings the amount granted by the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to benefit homeless families to almost $640 million.

Bezos’ partner, former news anchor Lauren Sánchez, who is also the vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, thanked the grantee organizations in a video posted to both her and Bezos’ social media accounts.

The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte received a second grant this year after first being awarded $5 million by the fund in 2018. Deronda Metz, director of social services, said they can use the funding in more flexible ways than the government grants they receive, including the renovation of a 100 room hotel, hiring additional staff and expanding the facility for an on-campus Boys & Girls Club.

Rents rose sharply in her city following the pandemic, as it did in many cities, meaning that more families are losing their housing and that the cost of getting them into apartments has risen, she said.

“When you have flexible dollars in a rental market like this, you could pay your high rent, you could pay a higher deposit,” Metz said.

The fund works with an advisory board of experts from organizations like the Urban Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless to identify potential grantee organizations who may then submit funding proposals for consideration.

Amanda Andere, chief executive officer of the national network, Funders Together to End Homelessness, previously served on the fund’s advisory board. Her organization doesn’t directly fund nonprofits but advises philanthropic donors in the space with a focus on racial justice.

“Ultimately, we believe philanthropy can’t end homelessness alone, can’t be a gap filler,” Andere said. “And so the most effective strategy is funding advocacy, policy, activism, organizing in order to lever government change.”

Funders Together estimates that about $2.2 billion in philanthropic funding went to housing and homelessness in 2021, drawing on data from the organization Candid, which compiles information about charitable giving. That’s a very small amount compared to annual government budgets for housing, including $59.7 billion for the department of Housing and Urban Development in 2021.

“We know that the Bezos Family Fund is probably less likely to support things like advocacy, organizing or activism, but giving general operating support to an organization allows them the flexibility to direct funds to other things that might help them be a part of more community organizing or engaging people with lived experience,” in order to push for changes to the overall system of housing, she said. General operating support means grant funding that has no or few restrictions on the funding can be used.

The Bezos Day 1 Families Fund did not give a timeframe for when the pledged $2 billion would be distributed or what portion would go to homeless families.

Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in 2021 to spend more time on his other projects, including the rocket company, Blue Origin, and his philanthropy. He and Sánchez told CNN last year that they were committed to giving away the majority of his wealth within his lifetime. The couple has not signed the Giving Pledge, which asks billionaires to make a similar commitment.

Last year, Bezos gave away $122.2 million and has pledged around $12.8 billion in charitable donations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. His mother, Jacklyn Bezos, and her husband Miguel, gifted $710 million to the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in 2022.

Bezos and Sánchez pledged $100 million in the aftermath of the wildfires in Maui, and Bezos has also given a $100 million to Dolly Parton, chef José Andrés and CNN commentator Van Jones with the request that they give the funds away to nonprofits.

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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and non-profits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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