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: Jeff Bezos giving nearly $100 million to groups serving homeless families

Nonprofits serving homeless families will receive nearly $100 million from one of Amazon

founder Jeff Bezos’ charitable funds, Bezos announced Wednesday on Instagram

The Bezos Day 1 Families Fund will distribute $96.2 million in grants to 32 groups in 21 states “to continue their critical work providing shelter and support for young families,” an announcement on the fund’s website said. Recipients include Destination: Home, a San Jose, Calif., nonprofit that will use its $5 million grant to support a campaign to end family homelessness in Santa Clara County — in the heart of Silicon Valley — by 2025, the group said on its website.

The funding marks the fourth round of grants from the Day 1 Families Fund. Bezos started the philanthropic initiative in 2018 with his former wife, Mackenzie Scott, who has emerged as a major philanthropist since the couple’s 2019 divorce. The couple pledged $2 billion to fund both the Day 1 Families Fund to address homelessness among families and the Day 1 Academies Fund, to build a nationwide network of free preschools aimed at children in lower-income families.

Since its launch, the Day 1 Families Fund has given out 130 grants totaling more than $398 million to organizations working to address homelessness across the U.S. 

Criticism that Amazon has contributed to rising home prices

The company that built Bezos’ fortune also makes charitable donations to groups serving people experiencing homelessness, and has given more than $100 million to Seattle’s Mary’s Place shelter.

At the same time, Amazon has fielded criticism that it has contributed to rising home prices near its Seattle headquarters and in Northern Virginia, where Amazon is building a second headquarters. An Amazon spokesperson previously said that the company plans to grow slowly in Virginia, and will share its growth plans with local officials so they can plan accordingly.

A 2020 analysis found that while the news of Amazon’s impending arrival in Virginia created an initial wave of “massive inventory shortages, sky-high price spikes and a rapid pace of sales,” the pandemic brought a “gradual cooling” to the housing market around the future HQ2.

Attention is focused on Bezos’ philanthropy

Bezos’ recent self-funded trip to the edge of space has put more scrutiny on his philanthropy, with some critics asking why he and other billionaires with interstellar ambitions aren’t putting more resources into fixing problems on their home planet. Bezos answered that question recently at a public forum on the future of space.

“They’re missing the duality that we need to do both, and that the two things are deeply connected,” Bezos said.

He noted that he is spending more money on the Bezos Earth Fund — his $10 billion pledge to fight climate change — than he’s spending on going to space. The Bezos Earth Fund recently earmarked $3 billion for “nature-based solutions” to the climate crisis. 

“We need to conserve what we still have, we need to restore what we’ve lost and we need to completely transform our food systems and grow what we need to live in a new way that doesn’t degrade the Earth,” Bezos said. “There’s a tremendous amount to be done and we cannot forget about that. But at the same time, in a deeply connected way, we need to look to the future. We humans have always done both things.”

He added, “This planet is so small. If we want to keep growing as a civilization, using more energy as a civilization, most of that in the future needs to be done off planet.”

Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in July 2020 in part to focus on other interests, including space and philanthropy. In addition to the recent Bezos Earth Fund allocations, this year he has announced a $200 million donation to the National Air & Space Museum, and a $100 million “civility” prize that he awarded to CNN commentator and racial-justice activist Van Jones and the hunger-fighting chef José Andrés.

With an estimated net worth of $211 billion, Bezos is currently considered the world’s second-richest person, behind Tesla

co-founder Elon Musk.

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