Marc and Lynne Benioff are giving $30 million to fund a five-year study on homelessness — its root causes and potential solutions.
According to a statement from Salesforce, the gift from the Benioffs to UCSF will "provide research, data and evidence-based solutions to help cities invest in the most effective programs to prevent and end homelessness," and it is the largest ever private donation to the cause of homelessness.
The money will go to the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations (CVP), as ABC News reports, and will fund what is being called the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. The program will involve academic research, and will provide testimonies, new data, and fact sheets to help cities — starting with San Francisco — make decisions about how best to use their resources to solve the homelessness crisis. It will also train formerly homeless individuals to be public speakers for the cause.
"The world needs a North Star for truth on homelessness,” said Marc Benioff in a statement. "The UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative will be that North Star."
Dr. Margot Kushel, professor of medicine and director of the CVP, will lead the new intiative.
"There is no medicine as powerful as housing," Kushel says. "But the problem is complex. We know a lot about how to end homelessness, but that knowledge doesn’t always reach policymakers and is often not properly targeted."
Kushel adds, speaking to ABC News, "We want to be a rapid response team to really help the public,. This is democratizing data; this is meant to get the data out there."
Dr. Joshua Bamberger, who will serve as associate director of the initiative, says in a statement, "We have designed this initiative to have real-world impact, first in San Francisco, then statewide and, ultimately we hope, on a national scale. We intend to be a resource for everyone who has a genuine interest in solving homelessness, whether they are elected officials, policymakers, advocates, concerned citizens or people who have experienced homelessness themselves."
Marc and Lynne Benioff have previously pledged $6.1 million to renovate San Francisco’s Bristol Hotel, which will add 58 units of housing for the homeless, and they gave $11.5 million to Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Campaign. The couple also donated $2 million to the “Yes on C” campaign to help pass Proposition C in San Francisco last November. The prop will dedicate up to $300 million in new tax revenues to address the issue of homelessness.