Philanthropy has both a unique opportunity and a critical responsibility to protect the most vulnerable communities during a pandemic. During this vital time, philanthropy can leverage its flexibility to provide funds to organizations for immediate relief and urgent needs.
At the Hilton Foundation, we see this moment in time as an opportunity to elevate effective infrastructures we have built into rapid action, capture evolving innovations, and collectively identify ways to make them sustainable in the long-term.
Here in Los Angeles, we have been working with longtime partner Brilliant Corners, an organization that has increased access to supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness through our Chronic Homelessness Initiative.
We recently approved two new grants to Brilliant Corners to support COVID-19 response in LA County. The first, in the amount of $250,000, was an emergency grant that helped expedite the opening of the first social isolation site in the county, which opened very quickly due to the flexible funding, staffing, and support from Brilliant Corners.
The second, in the amount of $2.25 million, will build upon the work of the initial grant, to continue supporting a partnership with the LA County Department of Health Services and fund the purchasing of supplies and cover expenses related to a COVID-19 response plan for individuals experiencing homelessness in LA County.
We recently connected with William F. Pickel, CEO of Brilliant Corners, and asked him to share with us how they are working to address the challenges facing our homeless neighbors during this time.
It is our collective responsibility in philanthropy to continue to stay vigilant and learn from our experiences in real time as we all address this challenge together, both locally and abroad.
William F. Pickel
When the COVID-19 crisis emerged, Brilliant Corners quickly mobilized—rapidly pivoting to support LA County’s COVID-19 emergency response. Given our system-level role as the operational partner of LA County’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool—an innovative supportive housing model launched in 2014—our broad network of partners, and our operational and logistical expertise, we have swiftly scaled a range of emergency response activities for the communities we serve.
In this critical time, Brilliant Corners remains committed to continuing to house clients as quickly as possible. This isn’t only about emergency housing but also accelerating permanent housing. We are working quickly to get the most vulnerable individuals off the streets and into permanent housing, because we know people are safer in their own homes.
We are utilizing the existing structure of the Flex Pool—a combination of available rent subsidies, a pool of available units, and existing landlord relationships, coupled with tenancy supports and case management—to rapidly house people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve created new systems for safely completing lease signings, virtually viewing available units in the community, and connecting clients to permanent housing options.
While we are quickly securing permanent housing for individuals currently experiencing homelessness during this emergency, we are also working to provide support for people who are already housed during the crisis. Once COVID-19 hit, it became clear that the shelter in place orders were creating an entirely new set of barriers even for our stably housed clients. In response, our case management team quickly connected with our clients, assessing their levels of vulnerability—whether they were lacking food or other essential supplies, or had a chronic health condition—and orchestrated no-contact drop-offs to provide our clients with groceries, diapers and supplies. Morgan Chandler, Brilliant Corners’ case management program supervisor, shared that “We’re helping our clients to navigate, in real time, the challenges of this moment.”
First and foremost, we are providing a support system for our clients—and for each other. One of our clients, Prentiss Saucer, a senior citizen with chronic health conditions, said in a recent phone check-in with our team, “If it wasn’t for you all, I would have given up a long time ago. Hearing from you keeps me going when I feel like I can't.”
We are grateful for the hard work and dedication Brilliant Corners is providing in our community. It is our collective responsibility in philanthropy to continue to stay vigilant and to focus on continuing to identify ways we can be nimble and responsive with our funding, and learn from our experiences in real time as we all address this challenge together, both locally and abroad.