The nonprofit will use the money to “leverage and improve existing family programs and fill in identified gaps,” CEO Dawn Gilman said.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (The video above is from an unrelated story)

Jacksonville-based Changing Homelessness has received a $2.5 million grant — the largest in the agency’s nearly 50-year history of serving struggling families in Duval and Nassau counties —  from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Day 1 Families Fund.

The nonprofit will use the money to “leverage and improve existing family programs and fill in identified gaps,” CEO Dawn Gilman said.

“It has been our community’s experience that we make good progress in reducing homelessness when we consistently focus on improving housing goals,” Gilman said. “Extraordinary progress can be made when we build and support a culture that consistently looks to improve outcomes and does not fear pivoting when presented with new information.”

Changing Homelessness was one of 40 nonprofits in 26 states and Puerto Rico to get 2022 grants totaling $123.6 million from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund. The initiative 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,” according to the fund’s website. 

Bezos, whose total net worth as of Friday was $119 billion, No. 4 in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, announced the 2022 grants on his Instagram account.

“This year’s Bezos Day 1 Families Fund grants go to 40 incredible groups working to end homelessness in the U.S.,” he wrote. “In five years, we’ve given more than $500 million to 167 orgs — helping expand their support of families in need. Honored to support these groups.”

Jacksonville has about 3,400 homeless people

This year’s Day 1 Families Fund grant recipients were selected by a group of national advisers, including advocates and experts on homelessness and service providers. One other recipient was from Florida: The Chapman Partnership, which received $5 million as the primary provider of emergency shelter in Miami-Dade County.

We’re proud to be recognized this year by an independent advisory group of homelessness experts for making measurable progress on family homelessness in Northeast Florida,” Gilman said. 

“As we continue to help families navigate through an uncertain economy, we’re especially grateful for the Day 1 Families Fund’s support, which will allow us to double down on our work to serve and provide stability for families in our community,” she said.

Jacksonville has about 3,400 homeless people, but only 1,100 or so emergency shelter beds. Finding permanent housing remains a challenge because of the continuing affordable housing crisis in the area.

Homeless prevention programs “can make the difference” for struggling families, said Tiffany Adams, ESG-CV client services team lead for Changing Homelessness. She knows because she was one of them, she said.

“Some people have an antiquated idea of who and how one is impacted by homelessness. It could happen to your bank teller, your waitress, anyone,” she said. “I was that bank teller during the day and a waitress working the night shift, while experiencing homelessness.

“Families, often hidden, navigate community services while trying to keep life normalized,” Adams continued. “Family programs see them and provide assistance tailored to their unique circumstances.”

Bezos founded the Day One Fund in 2018 with a $2 billion commitment to make “meaningful and lasting impacts in two areas: funding existing nonprofits that help families experiencing homelessness and creating a network of new, nonprofit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.” The Family Fund focuses on homeless, the separate Day 1 Academy Fund focuses on preschools.

bcravey@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4109

Click here to read more from the Florida Times-Union.

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