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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff donates $30 million to research homelessness

The billionaire CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, and his wife, Lynne Benioff, have donated $30 million to fund research efforts looking into the root causes of homelessness and ways to end it. The gift was made to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), which will launch the first-of-its-kind initiative, the school announced Wednesday

Mr. Benioff said in a statement that the world needs a "North Star" on the truth on homelessness. His namesake initiative, which will come with a new research center in San Francisco, will provide resources to help solve the crisis. 

"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," he said. 

The Benioffs' contribution is the largest-ever private donation to fund homelessness research, UCSF said. Benioff has a net worth of approximately $6.7 billion, according to Forbes

The university said the initiative will bring experts from various fields to conduct academic research on homelessness and housing issues, identify evidence-based solutions, and train the next generation of homelessness researchers. It will complement research already being done at UCSF. In addition, the world-class academic research will be made easily accessible for policy makers and community leaders across the country. 

Priced Out: LA's Hidden Homeless 25:47

Dr. Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, will lead the initiative. 

"There is no medicine as powerful as housing," Kushel said. "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."

San Francisco, where Salesforce is based, isn't alone in dealing with a growing homelessness crisis, but it's become a particularly visible and divisive problem in that city as local housing prices spiral higher and higher. San Francisco has approximately 7,500 homeless people, according to the most recent Homelessness Point-in-Time report

Benioff backed a recent ballot initiative to raise corporate taxes to fund programs for the homeless. The proposition passed but is facing court challenges.

On the state level, California had an estimated 129,972 people experiencing homelessness on any given day as of January 2018, based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reporting. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom said his state and the nation "have much to gain" from the UCSF initiative. 

"Homelessness isn't just a Bay Area issue — it touches every community in California." he said. "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." 

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