Our latest round of grants focuses on power-building, community organizing, and civic engagement efforts in BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities in California.
December 19, 2022—The California Wellness Foundation today announced $9.9 million in grants and $7 million in impact investments awarded to advance racial and environmental justice and health equity in California.
We awarded 46 grants across our four Advancing Wellness portfolios, focusing on a wide range of issues including civic engagement in LGBTQ+ communities, power building in BIPOC communities, and environmental justice organizing in low-income, immigrant communities in California. Our impact investments went to United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Community Investment Guarantee Pool, to fast-track affordable housing and other urgently needed community development projects in traditionally underinvested communities.
Investing in BIPOC-Led Community Development Projects
United Way of Greater Los Angeles received $2 million to support their Affordable Housing Initiative, a strategy to reduce the time and cost needed to develop affordable rental housing. LA County has a massive affordable housing deficit: 500,000 units. Meanwhile, homelessness is on the rise. This initiative provides financing exclusively to diverse-owned and diverse-led developers.
Cal Wellness made a $5 million pledge to Community Investment Guarantee Pool for urgently needed financing for community development projects in historically redlined and strategically neglected communities. CIGP will finance projects that may not otherwise be able to access capital. They provide loans to build affordable housing, launch small businesses, and mitigate climate risk.
“PRIs deliver important capital into communities that have been ignored, neglected and harmed for generations,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness president and CEO. “When possible, Cal Wellness tries to complement these impact investments with grant dollars to reinforce operations of their investment teams.”
Supporting Civic Engagement in LGBTQ+ Communities
While there have been important victories, including the recent bi-partisan Congressional passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, administrative policies and judicial decisions have been on the rise in many states. Trans communities in particular are under attack. Currently 155 anti-trans bills are on the docket in state legislatures across the country. At the same time, grassroots organizations advocating for LGBTQ+ rights have not been able to secure adequate and consistent philanthropic funding. Historically, philanthropy has done a poor job of supporting these organizations, which has made their financial stability challenging. Given this difficult climate, we awarded five core operating support grants totaling $1.3 million to organizations that are building power, partnerships, and civic capacity within LGBTQ+ communities.
The Transgender Law Center, will use their grant to fund their education, advocacy and narrative change work. They'll focus on addressing systemic racial inequities in policing for BIPOC transgender people, especially Black and Native American trans women, asylum seekers, and migrants. The San Diego LGBT Community Center and TransLatin@ Coalition will strengthen their organizing and community engagement efforts and build coalitions to collectively influence public policy locally and statewide.
LGBTQ+ populations are more likely to be uninsured, to be living in poverty, to face discrimination and to have disabilities that impact their access to health care. Lyon-Martin Community Health Services will provide health care and social services to low-income transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex individuals, as well as LGBQA+ and cis-women in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Funders for LGBTQ Issues will use their grant to increase the scale and impact of philanthropic resources aimed at enhancing the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ communities in California.
Building Power for Equity, Health and Climate Resilience in Communities of Color
The environmental conditions of the communities we live in significantly affect our health outcomes. For example, pesticide exposure in places like the San Joaquin Valley is linked to adverse birth outcomes. Access to green spaces and parks in densely populated urban areas is tied to smaller racial gaps in coronavirus infections.
This quarter we awarded four grants totaling $900,000 to organizations that are building people power in communities of color and developing sustainable community-led solutions to environmental and racial inequities.
California Rural Legal Assistance is exercising its advocacy and leadership development muscle to tackle environmental health issues caused by climate change, failing infrastructure, and historic underinvestment in unincorporated communities in the Central Valley. These communities, predominantly low-income and Latino, are neglected because they do not have their own municipal governments representing their interests.
Lack of parks and green spaces in communities of color is another example of environmental and racial injustice. Research has found that adding more green spaces to schools improves academic performance and mental health and eases stress. Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment will use their grant to work with the community to build and launch a green schoolyard demonstration project in South Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, schools that lack green spaces are most often located in neighborhoods that already suffer from park scarcity. Kounkuey Design Initiative, Inc., will leverage their grant to continue building safe parks and green spaces in underserved communities experiencing effects of climate change.
Finally, the department of Human Ecology at UC Davis will invest in their Center for Regional Change to act as a watchdog to monitor the implementation of California's air pollution and environmental justice policies in vulnerable areas of the state.
“We are energized by today’s BIPOC-led, multi-racial, multi-generational protests calling for racial and social justice” said Lori A. Cox, vice president of programs. “Dismantling racism and anti-Blackness requires that organizations led by people of color have what they need to be healthy and sustainable. And it requires movement building that brings together diverse organizations for coordinated and unified multi-racial coalitions demanding social justice. Our grants are addressing both of these strategies.”