Tech Companies (and Pearl Jam) Compelled to Alleviate Homelessness Crisis in their Backyards

 In FirstEval, News from FirstEval

While more of a list than a blog post, I’ve been tracking corporations’ recent efforts to reduce homelessness and thought I would share my list with you.

Here are five big announcements around corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) efforts towards minimizing the current homelessness crisis in companies’ cities. Plus one from one of my favorite bands.


The first gift in this wave came from Cisco in early 2018. Cisco pledged $50 million to Destination:Home, a San Jose public-private partnership that uses a housing first approach. Cisco also calls San Jose home. HUD calls housing first “an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment, or service participation requirements.” In other words, housing first, then help with everything else second.

Also on the scale of large, and announced in May, was Salesforce’s Marc Benioff’s $30 million gift to open a research center at University of California San Francisco. Dr. Margot Kushel will lead the Homelessness and Housing Initiative, thinking through causes of and solutions for homelessness. I couldn’t applaud this more – homelessness is understudied, especially at regional and local levels.

In June, Google announced a $1 billion investment in affordable housing in their own backyard in the form of land, housing incentives, and cash to nonprofits.

One of my favorite companies is Tableau – their Built for Zero initiative will provide $1.3 million in software and services to help alleviate veteran and chronic homelessness in 50 communities around the country. They are already operating in my home, Phoenix. We MUST be able to see and visualize clean homelessness data to improve provider services.

Also in June, Seattle corporations pledged $47 million a year for homelessness alleviation and housing help. These include Amazon, Microsoft, and healthcare companies.

Finally, by late 2018 Pearl Jam’s “Home Shows” had raised well over $10 million to be distributed to nearly 100 Seattle-area organizations to fight homelessness. 

My two cents on this corporate behavior over the last 15 months:

California’s Bay Area and Seattle are certainly experiencing homelessness crises, and in need of large-scale efforts like these. Yet, what about other large American cities on the brink of homelessness crises (I am looking at you, Phoenix) – will their local corporations step up and add homelessness to their CSR portfolios?

Will companies evaluate these gifts? Will they track metrics and measure social impact and community return on their initiatives?  If so, how?

That will have to happen to answer my last question – will this make a difference? Solving homelessness takes systems-level cooperation. Will gifts like these combine with local government, municipal, and citizen efforts to solve homelessness?

I am staying tuned. Let me know if I missed any big gifts that you’ve noticed.


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