ONLY ON ABC7NEWS.COM: Marc Benioff discusses $30 million donation to fight homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco will get a big boost in its effort to solve the homeless crisis from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife.

"Marc, you and Lynne have been so generous to this city and this community and you are being generous once again with a $30 million donation. Why?" asked ABC7 News Anchor Dan Ashley.

"Well Dan, Lynne has really inspired me to make homelessness my number one philanthropic priority in the city. And you can see that we need it now more than ever," said Marc Benioff.

It is that sense of urgency, that sense that homelessness in San Francisco has tipped from crisis to catastrophe that is fueling Marc Benioff to take his commitment to the problem another step forward. He and his wife, Lynne, donating $30 million dollars to the Center for Vulnerable Populations at UCSF to study the causes of and solutions for homelessness.

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"This is an opportunity for UCSF to scale already successful research to really be the North Star on how to clean up the homelessness problem," said Marc Benioff.

Dr. Margot Kushel is the director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations and will spearhead the research that the Benioff's gift will fund

"Margot this from Marc and Lynne Benioff is exciting," said Ashley.

"It is really exciting, we're just thrilled," said Dr. Kushel.

"Tell me how that money is going to be used?" asked Ashley.

"We're going to use it for a few purposes. We really want to end homelessness," said Dr. Kushel.

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One of those critical pathways is providing more permanent affordable housing in one of the most expensive places to live in the country. When it comes to health, housing, Dr. Kushel says, is the best medicine.

"Part of this will be vetting the information that we already know and being sure that we can disseminate it so that decision makers and the general public knows what we know about the pathways to end this crisis," said Dr. Kushel.

"What do you want to tell people today about what will come out of this study and that amount of money being spent?" asked Ashley.

"We realize that it is a large amount of money and we think of it as an investment, an investment to get to policies that are going to solve this problem," said Dr. Kushel.

With roughly 7,500 people living on the streets of the city, and under growing pressure to do something, Mayor London Breed pushed through a controversial plan to build a so-called Navigation Center for the homeless along the Embarcadero. The growing problem compelled Marc Benioff to lobby for the passage of Proposition C last year, which imposes a new tax on major corporations in the city to generate roughly $300 million a year. That money is being collected, not yet spent.

"So you're pleased? Prop C has passed and you're optimistic that once that money is released we'll see a difference?" asked Ashley.

"Well, there's a lot of work still to do as you can see walking down the streets of our city. Everybody needs to be focused on homelessness. This is our number one issue," said Marc Benioff.

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The work being done by Dr. Kushel and her team at USCF's Center for Vulnerable Populations, Marc believes is crucial to understanding the scope and scale of the problem.
"But they need more funding if they're going to make this a program that everybody can use," said Marc Benioff.

"So it's not just an academic pursuit. You mean for this academic, scientific research to be used out on the streets?" asked Ashley.

"Well, just walking down the streets of San Francisco, I know that there are so many things that we can do. And the research says so. But many people are confused about what to do, so this really gives people clarity. This is what to do, how to do it, why it works. And it's been proven through a scientific process. It's not just one person coming up with an idea," said Marc Benioff.

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