When Public Parks Become a Civil Rights Issue


September 29, 2016; The Atlantic

Public parks and recreational areas in urban regions often support activity and healthy living for low-income communities. In the past, these amenities were mostly suburban enhancements, but today’s city leaders realize their importance in encouraging more vital lifestyles for all residents. They can also lead to gentrification driving out the people they were designed to serve.

For three years in a row, Minneapolis has boasted the best parks system in the U.S. as judged by The Trust for Public Land, a forty-four-year-old nonprofit dedicated to protecting and creating public parks throughout the country. The city’s numerous parks are also the center of a bitter dispute with many residents of color, who allege the parks are primarily maintained and presented for the benefit of the metro area’s affluent white residents. As noted in The Atlantic article:

In America, bike trails and baseball fields are luxurious perks of many affluent neighborhoods, boosting property values and creating a sense of community. Meanwhile, in many inner cities, public parks are magnets for crime and casualties of disinvestment.

The battle is most evident at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board’s regular meetings. The semi-autonomous agency, overseen by a nine-member elected commission and superintendent, is responsible for managing the City’s parks. Often, the meetings are disrupted by groups of young African American men carrying signs demanding the agency increase minority hiring and equalize park funding throughout the region. The protest is organized by Voices for Racial Justice and Community and other nonprofits. The park board is all white, while the city is only 66 percent white, compared to 87 percent in 1980. It has a history of funneling substantially more funding to parks in wealthier areas in southwest Minneapolis at the expense of northern areas where most of the city’s low-income minority residents live.

The protests led to Minneapolis being the first city-park system to prioritize capital spending to parks in low-income/large-minority communities and those in the worst condition. State leaders are also advocating for expanded funding to increase minority communities’ knowledge of regional parks. Millions of residents visit regional parks annually, but only three percent are minorities.

The disproportionate access of minority communities to parks and recreational areas is a national concern. Earlier this year, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, recognized the country’s history of funding parks in areas where older, white Americans reside and the need to expand access to younger, more diverse residents.

In Chicago, city residents are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the 606 Trail. Eighty thousand residents live within ten minutes of the 2.7-mile trail, which was converted from an abandoned railroad track. Residents use it year-round for recreation as well as traveling to and from work. It has also sped up gentrification in surrounding communities. The real estate industry has marketed homes near the trail nationwide.

Compare the $95 million project to the Major Taylor, a similar project in Chicago’s low-income South Side communities. The Major Taylor trail is over twice as long, but without the lighting, snow removal, and other amenities of the 606 Trail, it has fewer users and property values surrounding the trail have not increased.—Gayle Nelson

Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/10/11/public-parks-become-civil-rights-issue/


Why Highways Are the Center of America’s Protests


July 13, 2016; Washington Post

“If you can find a way to jam up a highway—literally have the city have a heart attack, blocking an artery—it causes people to stand up and pay attention. Highways still perform their historic role from a half-century ago. They help people move very easily across these elaborately segregated landscapes.”

—Nathan Connolly, historian, Johns Hopkins University

Writing for the Washington Post, Emily Badger reminds us why highways and our transportation systems in general figure so prominently in BLM protests. Across the country, thousands of protesters connected to the Black Lives Matter movement marched on highways and bridges. In the last month, protesters blocked highways in Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Chicago. These connected images remind us of prior moments in the struggle for racial justice. Badger writes:

Block a highway, and you upend the economic life of a city, as well as the spatial logic that has long allowed people to pass through them without encountering their poverty or problems. Block a highway, and you command a lot more attention than would a rally outside a church or city hall—from traffic helicopters, immobile commuters, alarmed officials.

Protesting on main transportation routes is not new. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s used roads and bridges as well. For example, protesters in the march in Selma used the Edmund Pettus Bridge to travel to Montgomery. These moments are meant to interrupt the status quo—which, let’s face it, has been inadequately protecting the rights of those whom the protestors represent.

“When people disrupt highways and streets, yes, it is about disrupting business as usual,” said Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth Project 100. “It’s also about giving a visual that folks are willing to put their bodies on the line to create the kind of world we want to live in.”

On July 9th, hundreds protesting the death of Philando Castile started at the Minnesota governor’s mansion and continued onto Interstate 94, blocking the entire highway. Castile, an African American man, was killed on July 6th after his car was pulled over because it had a broken taillight. Through the use of Facebook’s live recording feature, his death captured the attention of millions.

I-94 is an interstate highway built in the 1950s that stretches from Montana to the Great Lakes region. Like all interstate highways, the federal government provides most of the resources used to build and maintain it. Much of the area now covered by the highway was once home to thriving African American communities.

A recent study by the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University identified more than 1,400 Black Lives Matter protests in nearly 300 U.S. and international cities from November 2014 through May 2015. In at least fifty percent, the march shut down highways, bridges, or other transportation infrastructure.

“We systematically show that the political protest today is now almost totally focused on transportation systems, whether it’s a road, a bridge, in some cases a tunnel—rather than buildings,” said Mitchell Moss, the director of the Center and one of the authors of the study.

Today, marches on I-94 and other American highways are symbolic. First, the disruption of the flow of people and commerce is hard to ignore. Second, they connect the protests to the death, which took place during a traffic stop. Third, it reminds society of thethousands of African Americans who were displaced to build these huge byways at taxpayer expense.

America’s history of devastating African-American communities to build highways wasthe subject of two speeches this March by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. During the first twenty years of highway development, 475,000 families—over a million people—lost their homes, many of them poor and black. Foxx, an African American,spoke of his home community in Charlotte, which was ripped apart by major highways.

Many cities are coming to terms with this injustice and reintegrating these communities and the city as a whole through the building of new bridges and walking paths. However, the use of highways and other transportation routes by protesters to “stop time” and have us reflect upon unseen but impenetrable barriers is unlikely to stop anytime soon.—Gayle Nelson

Original post cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/07/21/highways-center-americas-protests/

Health Conversion Foundations: How to Make Them Relevant


June 2, 2016; Becker’s Hospital Review

Experts estimate there are about 400 foundations across the U.S. created due to the consolidation or conversion of a nonprofit hospital or health system into a for-profit. These foundations, known as legacy or health conversion foundations, maintain missions similar to their source organization: to support the health of the community the organization once served. In this age of limited government funds and great need, returning these resources in an effective and efficient method is essential.

Health organization conversions began in the 1980s as for-profit health corporations expanded their market by purchasing nonprofit hospitals, often associated with religious denominations. In the 1990s, this trend continued as Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in California and other states were transformed into for-profit entities.

In the 2000s, hospitals, healthcare systems, and health plans grew even larger, serving increasing geographic areas. (The Nonprofit Quarterly has written extensively on thedeath of the rural health organizations.) At the same time, hospital systems located in strong urban and suburban markets tend to be conversion targets. Other characteristics of converted health organizations are: small or medium in size, located in the South, and not or only rarely connected to a medical school or other teaching institution.

In 2010, the IRS identified 306 conversion foundations with assets of $26.2 billion. In the six years since then, the number of organizations in the healthcare industry has continued to decrease and conversions continued as hospitals and health care systems’ revenue sources shifted due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, in 2012 alone105 hospitals were acquired. Although there are no comprehensive reports for this period, experts estimate an additional one hundred legacy foundations were formed.

Similar to a community foundation, these legacy foundations are connected to specific places or geographic areas. The assets held by health conversion foundations range from less than $10 million to more than $3 billion. The larger organizations often make annual grants of $5 million or more and include some of the country’s most influential health supporters such as the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, and the Colorado Health Foundation.

Due to the size of these foundations and the vast needs of the communities they serve, it is not surprising many conversion foundation leaders feel immense pressure. One expert,Wayne Luke, managing partner of the nonprofit practice at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, provides advice that can be broadened to any new foundation. First, develop a well-thought-out plan before beginning grant distribution. Second, enlarge the mission beyond health to include social determinants such as education, housing, economic development, and access to healthy foods. (We would add transportation to this list, as it is often mentioned as a barrier to health care in nonprofit hospitals’ community health needs assessments, or CHNAs.) Third, since new legacy foundation boards and staff often contain leaders from the source health care organization, foundations should promptly broaden leadership to increase credibility and organization knowledge. Fourth, build collaborations across the community to expand impact and outcomes.

It is clear the healthcare industry will continue to shift as new healthcare laws and regulations take effect. Communities depend on leaders of conversion foundations to develop strong partnerships and effectively distribute the essential resources they are responsible for.—Gayle Nelson


Original Cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/06/07/health-conversion-foundations-how-to-make-them-relevant/

2 Foundations Choose Higher Payouts, Inviting Others to Do the Same


February 16, 2016; Philadelphia Inquirer

NPQ has often advocated for foundations to consider higher payout rates, taking up the issue in some detail in Buzz Schmidt’s classic, “‘Deliberate Deployment’ or Perpetuity: Questions to Inform Timing Strategies for Philanthropy.” Since then, we have seen a number of foundations moving to deploy more of their assets in the here and now—if not by “spending down” more quickly, then by investing more of their full assets in mission-related activity. But Schmidt also suggests that foundations consider a set of questions in a more “deliberate deployment” strategy, and that is what we see in this story.

Two influential leaders in the Philadelphia area philanthropic community passed away this past January: Patricia Kind and Harold Taussig. The foundations they created, the Patricia Kind Family Foundation and the Untours Foundation, are memorializing their legacy through increased grantmaking. Together, foundation leaders are asking other foundations to join them in giving away more than the five percent required by law.

Throughout Patricia van Ameringen Kind’s long life, she supported some of the most vulnerable. She was trained as a nurse, and this training influenced her philanthropic support of those living in poverty in her community. She and her husband founded the Patricia Kind Family Foundation in 1996 to support the needs of Philadelphia’s poor. The foundation recognizes the essential work of smaller nonprofits by focusing its giving on organizations with budgets under one million dollars.

A day after Mrs. Kind’s death, another of Philadelphia’s most generous leaders, Harold E. Taussig, passed away at the age of 91. Mr. Taussig never forgot his roots as a small-business owner and entrepreneur. He was one of the first to see the value of offering vacationers the opportunity to stay in apartments instead of hotels. Through his Untours Foundation, he provided low-interest loans to startup businesses and other enterprises to create economic opportunity to alleviate poverty throughout the world. Since its inception, the foundation has made more than $7 million in low interest loans.

Although their methods differed, Mr. Taussig and Mrs. Kind shared a dedication to those living in poverty. To memorialize their generosity, the foundations they created are reaching out throughout the philanthropic community, asking other foundations to dedicate more of their resources toward alleviating poverty and underwriting second chances.

Foundations are only required to give away five percent of their assets to maintain their tax-exempt status. Administrative expenses, including staff salaries, are eligible to be included in that five percent, so even less than five percent of their assets may be given in grants each year. Leaders of the Patricia Kind Family and Untours Foundations are advocating for a different use of resources.

“The standard foundation structure of using only 5 percent of foundation assets to address a foundation’s mission is a waste of 95 percent of its assets,” said Elizabeth Killough, director of the Untours Foundation. “On top of not addressing mission, that 95 percent is often invested at cross purposes to the foundation’s mission.”

As the divide between rich and poor continues to expand, will these foundations’ efforts toward building a movement to spend more of their assets on the work of social change catch on?—Gayle Nelson


2 Foundations Choose Higher Payouts, Inviting Others to Do the Same

Data? It Depends! Counting Homeless People Depends Upon Your Definition


The Great Recession led to an explosion in the number of people experiencing homelessness. Many turned to relatives and friends before turning to shelters or the streets. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for defining and tracking the number of homeless people. It currently does not define people “couch surfing” or living in motels as among the homeless. New legislation proposes to expand the definition of homelessness, but without increasing resources to support a system that’s over capacity and drastically underfunded, the bill fails to address the underlying problem.

Katie Jeffery’s 17th birthday present from her mom was the streets. Katie’s mother kicked her out of the house; the youth traveled from friends’ couches to cars, motels, and even a shed for the next four months as she battled to graduate from high school. Because she was never forced to live on the streets, HUD never counted her as homeless.

The nation’s public schools identified over 1.2 million students as homeless last year. Eighty percent are not defined as homeless by HUD and therefore are ineligible for essential services. States with smaller populations, like Wyoming, where Katie was living, are seeing some of the biggest increases; unfortunately, they also have the fewest resources. More than half of HUD-funded emergency shelters are located in major cities.

Last week, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress to expand the definition of homelessness. TheHomeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 was introduced in the House by Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA). Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced it in the Senate. If passed, it would identify homeless families and youth without regard to where they are staying. It would also give localities more power over how to spread their limited and grossly inadequate federal resources dedicated to these critical services.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness agrees that HUD’s definition of homelessness is out of date. But currently, only 14 percent of the approximately 380,000 unaccompanied youth under the age of 18 who “experience a runaway or homeless episode lasting more than one week” every year are served. For the nation’s system of shelters and other nonprofit service organizations to have the capacity to serve all of these youth, resources would need to be expanded by a factor of seven.

According to the Alliance, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 would add an additional 7 million people eligible for services. Without additional funds, the organization is concerned that scarce resources will be shifted away from people living on the streets to those that have someplace to stay, however insecure.

One can only hope that a more accurate number would further strengthen the argument for additional resources. But given that slightly more than one in ten homeless people are currently being served, one wonders how much larger the inadequacy would need to be for our nation to allocate the resources needed to fund these crucial programs.

Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/25539-data-it-depends-counting-homeless-people-depends-upon-your-definition.html

UNICEF: Social Service Programs Critical in Stemming Child Poverty


The Great Recession wreaked havoc in homes across the world, leading to an increase in the number of children living in poverty. As the recession ends, families continue to struggle. Recently, the United States Census reported a decrease of 1.9 percent in the number of children living in poverty from 2012 to 2013. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released a similar report for the period of 2008–2012, noting an increase in child poverty rates for more than half of the world’s most developed countries. The UNICEF report also identified government programs and social service agencies as the “decisive factor” in limiting the growth in child poverty.

Identifying children as the “most enduring image” of the Great Recession, UNICEF has released a report documenting the number of children living in poverty in the forty-one richest countries around the world. Entitled “Children of Recession: the Impact of the Economic Crisis on Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries,” it found an increase of 2.6 million children living in poverty in the developed world between 2008 and 2012. Overall, the number of children in OECD countries living in poverty increased to 76.5 million, including 11.1 million living in severe maternal deprivation—an increase of over 10 percent.

The report ranked the forty-one countries surveyed. It identified increases of over fifty percent in Ireland, Croatia, Latvia, Greece, and Iceland. In contrast, eighteen of the forty-one countries illustrated that an increase in child poverty is not inevitable during a recession. Children in poverty dropped by a minimum of thirty percent in Chile, Finland, Norway, Poland, and Slovakia.

Strong social service programs and agencies were, according to the report, the key to weathering the recession. Often, these programs protected some vulnerable groups better than others. The report identified 24 of 31 countries, or over 77 percent, where the number of elderly people living in poverty decreased while the number of children increased during the five-year period.

In terms of the United States, the UNICEF report did document a significantly higher increase in the number of children living in extreme poverty in the United States between 2008 and 2012, as compared to the recession of 1982. During the most recent recession, the number of children living in poverty increased by almost eight percent to 24.2 million.

More recently, the U.S. has begun to stem this tide. Last month, the United States Census identified a 1.9 percent decrease in the number of children living in poverty in 2013, compared to 2012. The decline was the largest since 1966.

The UNICEF report emphasized the need for the world’s richest countries to realize the cyclical nature of the world economy and develop a strong safety net in times of prosperity that will shield children during upcoming recessions. Clearly the recent growth in the United States between the income of the upper 2% and the lower 98% illustrates the huge gap programs would need to close.

But, to use a tired old thought, maybe this sector is about equity and some measure of economic justice, not simply providing a safety net within an increasingly unjust structure.

Original Cite: