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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Local Organization Receives Funds From The Bezos Day One Fund To Combat Homelessness

The Centralized Diversion Fund recently announced that they received a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to combat homelessness in King County. (Credit: iStockphoto)

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

Due to the economic downturn and the COVID pandemic homelessness has become a symptom of the adversities society has faced over the last several years.

Community organizations such as Africatown International and Building Changes have taken it upon themselves to do what they can to help and aid those demographics adversely affected by homelessness in our community.

“Homelessness doesn’t always mean someone is living under a bridge,” says Malakhi Kaine, Executive Director of Africatown International. “Sometimes families may find themselves in many different scenarios like rent arears, or evictions that can hold up their ability to find or secure a new residence and this fund allows us to help these families by subsidizing monies to help with things like first and last months payment as well as deposits.”

Africatown International (AI) is a community-based, black led organization formed in 2016. AI’s mission is to alleviate poverty through education, employment and by addressing basic human needs. AI focuses on providing culturally based solutions to poverty. Its primary objective is to help households address root causes and create a roadmap to prosperity.

In partnership with Building Changes, a local non-profit that pushes for equitable, holistic responses in and across the housing, education, and health systems so that all children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness get the support they need, AI has created the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) to provide cost-effective and common-sense solution to homelessness in King County.

CDF recently announced that they have been selected to receive a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund. Launched in 2018 by Amazon founder and executive chair Jeff Bezos, the Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The CDF helps families get housed quickly by providing them with the funds needed to cover move-in costs, application fees, past due eviction debt and other expenses so that they can secure a safe and stable place to live.

“One of the things is we are excited to have this grant come in to really bridge and sustain the Centralized Diversion Fund until we can find long term funding,” says Daniel Zavala, Executive Director of Building Changes. “This allows the person or family who may be experiencing homelessness and then have the providers themselves be able to access a central fund and that alleviates the difficulty in the navigation and access to homeless services and support.”

According to the CDF, this one-time grant from the Day 1 Families Fund will allow CDF partners to help an additional 500 families exit homelessness. The grant will also support infrastructure needs and capacity building, including training practitioners and providers, as sustainable public funding paths are established for the CDF. The CDF is meant to be a public-private partnership.

“This is an investment in a proven, community-based solution to our region’s homeless crisis,” said Yalonda Sinde, Finance and Development Director at Africatown International, a local black-led, grassroots organization that administers the CDF. “Support for the Centralized Diversion Fund will ensure people move quickly from homelessness into housing.”

The Bezos Day One Fund made a $2 billion commitment to focus on making meaningful and lasting impacts in two areas: funding existing non-profits that help families experiencing homelessness, and creating a network of new, non-profit tier-one preschools in low-income communities. The Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The CDF was selected as Day 1 Families Fund grant recipients by an independent advisory board comprised of homelessness experts with experience in policy, advocacy, racial equity, child welfare and housing and service delivery, as well as firsthand experience in homelessness.

“This gift will renew and cement the Centralized Diversion Fund for the coming years,” said Zavala. “It will allow us to focus on long-term sustainability of public funding, while also meeting the current and impending needs of families experiencing homelessness in our community.”

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