UCSF Launches New Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative with $30M Gift

Marc and Lynne Benioff’s Donation Will Create First-of-Its-Kind Initiative to Research Causes of Homelessness, Identify Evidence-based Solutions

By Laura Kurtzman

homeless encampment lining a San Francisco street
A homeless encampment lining a street in downtown San Francisco. Photo by Shannon Badiee via Creative Commons

Made possible by a $30 million gift from Marc and Lynne Benioff, UC San Francisco on Wednesday announced the launch of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, a new center in San Francisco that will conduct groundbreaking research on the root causes of homelessness and identify evidence-based solutions to prevent and end homelessness. Margot Kushel, MD, professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations (CVP), will lead the initiative.

The Benioffs’ gift is the largest-ever private donation to fund homelessness research.

portrait of Margot Kushel
Margot Kushel, MD

San Francisco, along with countless cities across the country, is experiencing a homelessness crisis. According to the 2017 annual Homelessness Point-in-Time report, approximately 7,500 people are homeless in San Francisco, 58 percent of whom are unsheltered. Rising housing costs and income inequality are leading to more people, including families and older adults, entering homelessness for the first time.

The first-of-its-kind initiative, which will be part of the CVP, will convene experts from various fields to conduct rigorous academic research on homelessness and housing issues, identify evidence-based solutions and train the next generation of homelessness researchers. The initiative will complement and integrate research being conducted by faculty and researchers across the university.

The initiative will also democratize this world-class academic research, making it an easily accessible resource for policy makers and community leaders across the country seeking solutions to end homelessness in their own neighborhoods.

Comments on the Initiative

“The world needs a North Star for truth on homelessness. The UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative will be that North Star, providing the latest research, data and evidence-based solutions to ensure we’re investing in programs that will help solve the homelessness crisis.”
—Marc Benioff

“There is no medicine as powerful as housing. But the problem is complex. We know a lot about how to end homelessness, but that knowledge doesn’t always reach policymakers and is often not properly targeted. We have far more to learn about designing the most effective ways to prevent and end homelessness.”
Margot Kushel, MD, initiative director

“We have designed this initiative to have real-world impact, first in San Francisco, then statewide and, ultimately we hope, on a national scale. We intend to be a resource for everyone who has a genuine interest in solving homelessness, whether they are elected officials, policymakers, advocates, concerned citizens or people who have experienced homelessness themselves.”
Joshua Bamberger, MD, MPH, initiative associate director

“Despite all the wealth in this country, especially in our own region, perhaps the gravest threats to health are due to poverty, discrimination, and particularly homelessness. Here at UCSF, we have many dedicated researchers who have devoted their careers to addressing these health inequities. The Benioffs’ continued leadership on these issues, exemplified by this generous new gift, will further energize our efforts, and strengthen our links to communities in need at the local, state and national levels.”
UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS

“Homelessness isn’t just a Bay Area issue – it touches every community in California. Our entire state and nation have much to gain from this work. Marc and Lynne have been leaders in this space, and this generous investment will help fuel the search for solutions and further develop best practices to help those who are homeless improve their lives.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom

“Preventing and ending homelessness requires innovative solutions that can be replicated regionally, statewide, and nationally. No one city alone can address homelessness, which is why this initiative by Lynne and Marc Benioff and UC San Francisco will be a great tool for helping us here in San Francisco and in cities all over confront one of our greatest challenges.”
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed

“Marc and Lynne Benioff’s empathy and commitment to our most vulnerable residents should serve as inspiration for everyone working to end homelessness. Their relentless effort and passion has already uplifted countless lives, and this latest investment will help all of us understand the root causes that lead to homelessness as well as potential solutions. On behalf of a community who will greatly benefit from Marc and Lynne’s generous gift, Oakland looks forward to partnering with the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Gifts to Homelessness Issues, Children’s Health

With this new gift to UCSF, Marc and Lynne Benioff have now pledged $66 million to prevent and end homelessness in San Francisco. Most recently, they pledged $6.1 million to renovate the Bristol Hotel to add 58 units of housing in San Francisco. The Benioffs also donated $11.5 million to Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Campaign, co-founded Star Community Home, and supported other organizations including Raphael House, Larkin Street Youth Services and Catholic Charities. They also contributed $2 million to the “Yes on C” campaign to pass Proposition C in San Francisco, which will earmark up to $300 million in new tax revenues to address homelessness.

In addition to their work on homelessness, the Benioffs have a long history of supporting children’s health care. Since 2005, the couple has pledged more than $389 million to UCSF, including $200 million in support of the Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland and $50 million to launch the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Preterm Birth Initiative in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Of this total giving, they recently allocated $15 million to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland to address the acute shortage of mental health services for children and adolescents in Oakland and the East Bay.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the SF VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.