$5 Million Challenge Grant from Knight Foundation Helps Start Columbia's Effort to End Homelessness

June 26, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – June 26, 2008 – Columbia’s bold step to end homelessness by launching a comprehensive housing and services program has received a major jump-start with a $5 million challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A coalition of business leaders, service providers and faith leaders has worked in concert for two years to develop the plan that was announced today. Key to the plan is a homeless services center that would provide a continuum of care and housing to address the needs of Columbia’s long-standing homeless population. Estimates are that up to 500 are living on the city’s streets.

The Midlands Housing Alliance, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit orgainztion has been formed to help alleviate homelessness in the Midlands region of South Carolina and to help promote the vision behind a newly renovated, $15 facility at the Salvation Army shelter on the corner of Elmwood and Main .

Knight’s financial contribution – the national foundation’s largest grant to Columbia – challenges the community to step up and raise a matching $5 million before the end of the year toward the $13.5 million goal.     

These business and community leaders saw a critical community problem and have invested a lot of personal capital developing a visionary response, said Susan Patterson, Knight Foundation’s Columbia program director. Knight shares and supports that collective community vision. We hope the community believes in this solution. Our challenge grant is a big carrot. It is a call to action to Columbia to step up and support the vision with us financially.

Knight provided additional support by insisting that Columbia look beyond its borders for the nation’s best examples of homeless services. Representatives from Miami’s nationally respected Community Partnership for the Homeless visited and assessed the Columbia plan.

They offered an enthusiastic endorsement, said Patterson.

This is more than a shelter, added Patterson. This new center includes a variety of housing options that make it more likely homeless men and women will connect to the services they need to move on to permanent housing. You need a home to end homelessness.

Knight Foundation has invested almost $20 million in the Columbia area since 1987, funding projects ranging from Hurricane Hugo relief to journalism training at the University of South Carolina to infusing arts into after-school programming at Richland One middle schools. It also includes support for previous efforts around homelessness, including a 2000 grant to the Salvation Army for building a commercial grade kitchen. That kitchen is a key component of the new homeless services center.

Patterson said Knight’s approach to community funding starts by recognizing that each of the 26 Knight communities is different and distinct.

We develop a strategy in each that identifies the prevailing force of change. After 20 years, this committed group of Columbia leaders has taken ownership of the homeless issue and developed this plan. It’s that kind of unprecedented leadership and a potentially transformational solution we seek to harness.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in Columbia and 25 other communities where the Knight brothers ran newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change.  For more information, visit www.knightfoundation.org.