Philanthropy Ohio interviewed Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland President Susanna Krey in its “Philanthropy Review” winter 2016 publication about the foundation serving as a convener. With funders increasingly being asked—or expected—to play a convening role in their communities, the publication asked a few leaders across Ohio to talk about their experiences and lessons learned. Fellow interviewees included Kurt Karakul, president and executive director, Third Federal Foundation, and Ross Meyer, vice president, community impact, United Way of Greater Cincinnati. The interview with Krey is below.
FUNDERS AS CONVENERS
As published in Philanthropy Review, winter 2016
Interview with Susanna Krey, president, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
Q. What is the project?
A. We are motivated by a strident belief that every person deserves the dignity of a home. The critical need for affordable housing has been a major focus of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland since 1998. The Sisters of Charity Foundation’s efforts are focused on ending homelessness among three core populations: chronically homeless individuals, youth and families. Today, our role to convene the community around a topic is highly active in preventing and ending youth homelessness.
Q. Why have you taken on this role?
A. Inspired the by the success of our role in ending chronic homelessness, in 2012 we turned our attention to preventing and ending youth homelessness. We know no one organization or agency can take on the task. It requires diverse and innovative thinking from nonprofit organizations, public systems, local government, the faith-based community, funders and—most especially—the young men and women with deep expertise that is only attained through lived experience and resiliency.
Q. What been a major challenge?
A. Each year, hundreds of young people experience homelessness and housing instability in our community. They lack the consistency, familiarity and stability of a home. And, without it, everything seems harder. Our challenge was to create a coordinated strategic plan to prevent and end youth homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Furthermore, our aligned agenda needed to respond to the unique needs of youth who experienced foster care and lack the emotional and material support of a family, leaving them particularly vulnerable to housing instability. National data indicate that nearly 40 percent of former foster youth experience homelessness or housing instability by their 24th birthday.
Q. How did you overcome it?
A. The steering committee of A Place 4 Me, including the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, led an intense series of convenings to create our community’s collective path forward. Over a 10-month period in 2014 and 2015, nearly 79 individuals from 30 partner agencies worked together to develop Preventing and Ending Youth Homelessness in Cuyahoga County: A Strategic Plan.
Q. What advice would you offer other funders?
A. Shared strategy and willingness to innovate have been key factors for the work to prevent and end youth homelessness in Cuyahoga County. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has been honored to support this work. Engaged philanthropy brings unique strengths to the talented pool of partners with which we work. Catalyzing broad funding support is another opportunity foundations bring to the table.