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Amid homeless crisis, Yawkey Foundation pledges $15 million to Pine Street Inn

It’s the largest single pledge in the history of Boston’s largest homeless services organization.

The Yawkey Foundation on Tuesday pledged $15 million to help the Pine Street Inn finance housing developments for the formerly-homeless, like this one proposed on Washington Street in Jamaica Plain.RODE Architects

The Pine Street Inn on Tuesday announced it has received the largest financial pledge in its 50-plus year history: a $15 million commitment from the Yawkey Foundation to battle homelessness in Boston.

The donation has been in the works for many months, before the extensive news coverage of encampments near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and the gift isn’t directly related to that controversy. But Pine Street president Lyndia Downie said the situation at Mass. and Cass underscores the need for more permanent housing in the city, with services offered by Pine Street and other nonprofits to support the chronically homeless people who will move into new apartments from shelters.


“The folks who need support are the ones who have been homeless for a long time,” Downie said. “Those folks won’t be able to hold onto housing without some degree of support.”

Executives at Pine Street and the Yawkey Foundation hope the multiyear donation can help support the construction and operation of 400 to 500 new apartments, on top of the 850 units of supportive housing and 425 shelter beds that Pine Street already oversees. Some of the money will be used for improvements to a women’s shelter on Albany Street in the South End, adjacent to the main Pine Street facility. The women’s shelter will be renamed the Yawkey House.

The Yawkey Foundation has long been a supporter of Pine Street, but this gift dwarfs its $3.7 million in previous donations to the nonprofit. The Yawkey board approved the $15 million in late spring, and has had conversations with Pine Street officials since then about how to effectively deploy the money.

“This is really sitting out there as a resource for Lyndia to pull down grants as opportunities present themselves,” said Maureen Bleday, the foundation’s chief executive.


Among other things, Downie hopes to use the money to expand her real estate staff, to identify and develop locations for new supportive housing projects — much like the fully funded 225-apartment project at 3368 Washington St. in Jamaica Plain that Pine Street and The Community Builders are pursuing. Some of the money will go to provide services such as job training for the chronically homeless occupants of these apartments.

“This gift is going to have a major impact in Boston,” Downie said. “Without some measure of stability, people can’t get their life back together. Pine Street has been doing supportive housing for a long time. In the early days, it was [in] smaller buildings. ... Our dream has always been: How do we scale this up and how do we get people who have been homeless the longest into supportive housing?”

The $580 million foundation was launched in 1977 but received most of its funding through the sale of the Red Sox, then owned by the Yawkey family, in 2001 to a group of investors that included John Henry, who now owns The Boston Globe. All of the Yawkey family’s proceeds from the team’s sale, about $400 million, flowed into the foundation.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.