Amazon’s HQ2 could drive up homelessness in New York and Washington, DC. Most of Jeff Bezos’ $1 billion in donations to homeless groups are going elsewhere.

  • Jeff Bezos announced the recipients of nearly $US1 billion in grants for homeless families, which he will distribute from his Day One Fund.
  • The grants are divided among 24 charitable groups, three of which are located in Washington, DC – a metro that will soon host Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2.
  • The other HQ2 site will be located in New York City, where just a single homeless organisation has been awarded a Day One grant.
  • As both New York and DC await an influx of Amazon employees, they also expect to see a rise in homelessness.

Jeff Bezos’ latest round of charitable givings has been met with some controversy.

When it came time to choose the location of Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2, Bezos opted for two of the most prominent cities in the world: New York and Washington, DC. But when it came to awarding nearly $US1 billion to combat homelessness – an issue that could be significantly aggravated by the arrival of HQ2 – the CEO turned to smaller cities instead.

A week before Giving Tuesday, an international day of donations and activism, Bezos announced that he would distribute $US97.5 million in grants to 24 homeless organisations across the US. Fifteen of these groups will receive grants of $US5 million, while the remainder will be awarded $US2.5 million each.

The donations hail from Bezos’ Day One Fund, a $US2 billion philanthropy initiative that focuses on homelessness and education.

Both issues have become key concerns for residents of New York and DC, which are already plagued by rising homelessness and overcrowding in public schools. With Amazon introducing around 25,000 new employees to each metro over the next decade, these issues could become even worse.

A senior economist at Zillow recently predicted that HQ2 would add 830 homeless residents to New York City and another 14 to DC on an annual basis.

While funding from Bezos could help mitigate these effects, the CEO has opted to spread his donations across the country in cities like Cleveland, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Houston. He even plans to donate $US5 million to an organisation in Rhode Island – a state with only 1,180 homeless residents.

Just three of Bezos’ chosen organisations are located in the DC metro, which has the highest share of homeless residents in the country. One of these groups, the Northern Virginia Family Service, is located miles away from the urban core. In total, the DC organisations will receive $US10 million from Bezos’ Day One Fund.

New York City, meanwhile, represents only one organisation on the list: the Urban Resource Institute (URI), which is set to receive $US5 million. In a statement on its website, URI said the grant would improve its ability to care for families beyond basic shelter services.

But reducing New York’s overall homeless population is a much bigger battle. The city’s 2019 budget sets aside $US386 million for homeless services – around 77 times what Bezos donated to URI.

In his announcement of the grant recipients, Bezos emphasised his desire to “support the organisations that are doing compassionate, needle-moving work for young families in communities across the country.”

While his support may go far in cities like Providence, Rhode Island, or Charlotte, North Carolina, it will do little to combat homelessness in cities with the worst crises.

For the future sites of Amazon’s HQ2, the impact could be even smaller.

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