Funding Partner Spotlight: Melville Charitable Trust

By: Rebecca Allen, Senior Program Officer, Melville Charitable Trust

Talk a little bit about your background/history and how you came to be at the Trust.
My early career was devoted to the behavioral health field with particular focus on employment and creating a peer support workforce composed of people with lived experience. I then transitioned to homelessness services. Figuring out how to solve and truly end homelessness has been a big passion because I know how deeply connected income, health, and housing are. It’s hard to be in the homelessness field in Connecticut without knowing the incredible impact the Melville Trust has made over the years, especially launching the Partnership for Strong Communities. My introduction to the Partnership was by way of the Reaching Home Campaign and participating in its collective impact workgroups. When a position opened at the Trust, I was excited because I knew my content knowledge would be beneficial to the grantmaking work, and the Trusts’ focus on systems change and policy would advance my own learning and professional growth.  

What is important to you about the Trust’s mission, and what are the ways that mission aligns with the Partnership’s mission?
The Trust invests in policy and advocacy in order to change the systems that cause homelessness in the first place. Our grantmaking aims to end homelessness and increase housing stability for people who suffer the most from unstable housing and homelessness – Black, Indigenous and Latino/a/x people with extremely low-incomes in our home state of Connecticut and across the country. This clear focus on homelessness and housing stability has allowed us to dive deeply into addressing root causes. Similarly, the Partnership for Strong Communities has a very clear focus and works to change systems by advancing key housing policy and advocacy work in the state. Our missions have always been very aligned. 

How long have you been in partnership with the Partnership? What have you found most inspiring or noteworthy about the work that we do?
The Trust helped launch the Partnership, so we have a lot of interest in its success. We are deeply proud of everything the Partnership has achieved as a trusted leader in homelessness and housing advocacy in Connecticut. We are excited and committed to the Partnership’s renewed and deeper focus on housing and specifically the idea that an affordable home is the platform for strong thriving communities. This is a critical time for state partners to come together to focus on creating stable and secure housing for all, as we are seeing homelessness increase and many communities reject any proposals for new housing. We support the Partnership’s strong and informed leadership in this space and look forward to exciting outcomes in the coming years.

How do you measure success in the projects you support, and what outcomes have been most notable?
Policy and advocacy are long games – they require patience and hard work. While it can take many years to see big wins, we can assess impact along the way by figuring out the outcomes or indicators that align with the long-term result we’re trying to achieve. Our ultimate outcome is ending homelessness, and ensuring all extremely low-income people have a safe and affordable place to call home. As we work toward that goal we can see if we’re on the right track by changes in how many more Black, Indigenous and Latino/a/x people with extremely low-incomes are getting and staying housed, how many fewer families are being evicted, how many are able to get and use a rental voucher, whether they can use vouchers in a neighborhood of their choice, and how many units of housing are being built. But those data points have to be placed in context. Right now, inflation and sky-rocketing rents mean housing is unaffordable for many income levels. So many people across the state are struggling to afford a place to live. That means our work needs even more aligned investment, deeper collaboration across local, state, nonprofit and business sectors, and a renewed focus on what works.  

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