In 2018, Michael Reese decided to take steps that would allow us to deepen our impact. After operating as a private foundation for 22 years, we became public. That decision meant we could add new tools to complement our existing grantmaking work – incubation and advocacy.
Advocacy allows us to advance systems change while incubation gives us the opportunity to take risks on new, experimental or proven ideas that hold promise to change the future of health for Chicagoans.
Through incubation, a creative model working in one area of the country that shows impact could be brought to Chicago by incubating it at Michael Reese. As the incubator, we support the fundraising and administrative burdens while leveraging public and private partnerships to scale the initiative’s efforts.
For years, Chicago area funders focusing on homelessness had been convening to share ideas and strategize ways they could increase their impact.
They heard of a national organization called Funders Together to End Homelessness with over 200 foundation members across the country working to address homelessness in their communities. The idea was pitched to bring the model to Chicago.
In May of 2020, given Michael Reese’s decades long commitment to ending homelessness and our interest to incubate, Chicago Funders Together to End Homelessness (CFTEH) became Michael Reese’s first incubation project.
In just over two years, CFTEH has led the work to organize over 30 Chicago-area funders, aligning and leveraging their grantmaking efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Collectively, these funders have invested more than $25 million annually to address homelessness in Chicagoland, supporting close to 200 nonprofits.
And now, CFTEH has started its own grantmaking initiative, the Housing Justice Fund.
“The Housing Justice Fund grew directly out of community feedback. We heard from so many partners that it is difficult to fundraise for advocacy and community organizing. The Housing Justice Fund was designed to focus on this gap in the funding landscape, and to prioritize organizations that have been historically underfunded by philanthropy,” said Emily Krisciunas, Director of Chicago Funders Together to End Homelessness.
Over the next two years, CFTEH will direct at least $2 million to support campaigns, coalitions, alliances, partnerships and other coordinated tables that are leading advocacy and organizing efforts to end homelessness. The fund prioritizes Black-led and lived expertise-led initiatives.
In its first round of grantmaking, $1.2 million has been given to 11 Chicago-area organizations. These organizations include: Bring Chicago Home Coalition, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, Housing Action Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Fair Housing, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Not Me We, Palenque LSNA, Red Line Service, South Shore Planning and Preservation Coalition and the Tenant Education Network.
By bringing together these Chicagoland funders, CFTEH was able to identify a huge gap in the homelessness funding space and come up with a creative solution for it. A solution that will make a real difference to our city.
“In an economy of oppression, we have a shortage of affordable housing and a crisis of greed. With the support of Chicago Funders Together to End Homelessness, we will increase our capacity to organize toward systems that value life over profit and ensure all people have a home,” said Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, Executive Director of grant recipient Palenque LSNA.