Filling the Gap: Where Need Meets Opportunity

At the Community Foundation of Louisville, we have a mission of mobilizing people, networks, and capital to create meaningful change in and beyond Louisville. Recently, we encountered an emerging funding need for youth who exited the foster care system and have no safe place to live. Thanks to our networks, we were able to mobilize our donors (also known as “fundholders”) to act and help Kentucky’s most vulnerable youth find safety and care.

Image courtesy of Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA).

Local nonprofits, Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) and YouthBuild Louisville, along with other community collaborators, found a gap in utilized services for young adults over 18 who age out of the foster care system. Residential facilities and foster homes in Kentucky release young adults who opt not to stay in state care with housing, and they often end up homeless and vulnerable to revictimization.

“In meetings and discussions, housing issues and homelessness, specifically, kept being raised as a need among the population,” said Nikki Thornton, Senior Director of Innovation at Kentucky Youth Advocates. “There was a gap in foster care alumni and community partners knowing about available resources and how to access the support in place to prevent homelessness. It’s the support that many young adults receive from family and friends. However, foster care alumni often do not have these long-term natural relationships that can assist them with obtaining housing stability.”

With funding support from the Jewish Heritage Fund (JHF), KYA and YouthBuild are working to address this gap at a systems level while also meeting immediate needs through short-term housing. As KYA worked to fill that need for youth through emergency hotel stays, they ran into a problem: it was taking longer than expected to get youth into stable, permanent housing, and funding was running out. “As soon as KYA made me aware of a funding gap keeping young people from a safe place to stay, I thought of the Community Foundation of Louisville and its generous donors,” said Tiffany Fabing, Program Director at the Jewish Heritage Fund. “The Community Foundation [has been] an invaluable partner for connecting resources to [emergency] need.”

The Foundation’s Director of Stewardship, Kate Biagi-Rickert, was happy to step in and connect fundholders with this emergency need. “KYA needed at least $48,000 to cover about a three-month gap in funding, and additional funds would help them provide the wraparound services that they want to provide. I reached out to about six fundholders that I knew cared about foster care and homelessness, and many of them immediately said ‘yes.’”

One fundholder at the Foundation, Susan Means, has an increasing concern about homelessness in the community and felt an immediate call to donate. “I volunteer at a soup kitchen one day a week, and I’ve been doing that for about 6 years,” said Susan. “When I left after my very first day working down there, I came home and started to learn about the depth of homelessness in Louisville. I walked out of there [the soup kitchen that day], and I was like, ‘I’m going home to my house where I’m going to have a nice lunch, and I’m not worried about where I’m going to sleep tonight. And where do these people go when they leave that soup kitchen?’ I’ve been making donations there regularly. Knowing I’m helping to buy food to feed hungry people, and going down there myself and working with these people was eye-opening for me, and it changed my life. It changed my focus. Kids turn 18, and then what are they supposed to do if they don’t have a home? They don’t have a place to be. I was immediately interested when Kate told me about the need at Kentucky Youth Advocates for housing these kids.”

With the help of our Foundation’s Philanthropic Services team, Kentucky Youth Advocates exceeded their goal of filling their funding gap and received over $80,000 from six fundholders in two weeks. These funds enabled KYA to serve current emergency hotel stays for young people and assist additional foster care alumni waiting for temporary housing.

While many fundholders establish a charitable fund with the Foundation to simplify their giving, many engage further because of our increased equity work in providing nonprofits with social and financial resources. “The increased focus on social justice and equity is changing the way that [the Foundation] looks at grantees,” shared an anonymous fundholder who supported KYA’s emergency needs. “[Providing] not only grants but also help with infrastructure building and making various not-for-profits stronger and more able to meet their mission. Especially in the last five years, the Community Foundation has really rethought how they do things, and I’m pleased to be able to support those kinds of initiatives.”

Want to make a greater impact? Create a fund or connect with our Philanthropic Services team to learn how you can meet the needs of our community.