NEW HAVEN, CT -- The Melville Charitable Trust, the nation’s largest philanthropy focused exclusively on ending homelessness, announced today that it has selected Susan Thomas to be the foundation’s next President, effective January 6, 2020. Ms. Thomas is the Trust’s Program Director in which position she has led the foundation’s housing and racial equity efforts for five years and manages a state and national portfolio of grants supporting solutions to homelessness. She will become the third leader of the 30-year-old foundation, replacing Janice Elliott, who announced she will be retiring on December 31 after heading the foundation for seven years.
“After an extensive search that included outstanding candidates from throughout the United States, Susan emerged as our new leader because of her demonstrated skills, considerable achievements, and deep commitment to the foundation’s mission, vision, and values,” said Stephen Melville, chair of the Melville Charitable Trust board. “She is dedicated, resourceful, and known for her talent in developing strategic relationships, forging consensus, and galvanizing support for a common cause. We believe her leadership will open new avenues for investing in visionary organizations, advancing racial equity, and fostering deep collaboration between sectors.”
In her current role, Thomas has been instrumental in the creation of Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a national non-partisan, cross-sector funder collaborative focused on tackling the housing affordability crisis by supporting advocacy, narrative change work, and efforts to scale effective practices at the intersection of housing, health, economic mobility, and education. While at the Trust, Thomas was also selected to participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Fellowship program targeting leaders working to improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.
“I am truly honored to serve and lead this wonderful foundation,” said Thomas. “I joined the Trust over five years ago because of its unwavering commitment to ending homelessness and its strategic support of systems change. Looking forward, the Board, our incredible staff team, and I agree that given the racial disparity of those most likely to experience homelessness, we will not end homelessness until we prevent and end it for black and brown people. It does not work the other way around. Although we don’t yet know the precise path to that end, we’re looking forward to working alongside our current and future partners to figure that out.”
Before joining the Trust, Thomas was Project Officer for Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, where she was responsible for leading Unsheltered No More!, an initiative to dramatically reduce street homelessness which placed over 1,000 homeless men, women, and children into permanent housing. As the former president of Providence Consulting Group, she helped launch a statewide foundation to assist foster families, and she co-chaired an effort for the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Atlanta Housing Authority to rehouse 420 families as part of a major HOPE VI redevelopment project. Susan is a former Vice President of Community Investment and Area Development at the United Way of Greater Atlanta, where she was responsible for strategic investments of $107 million in grants over three years.
Before launching her nonprofit career, Thomas worked for 15 years in the areas of accounting, management consulting, and strategic planning. She holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in Accounting from the University of Maryland.
“I am tremendously proud and excited that Susan will be the Trust’s new leader,” said Elliott. “Her background in innovative philanthropy, her deep experience leading collaborative efforts to end homelessness, and her passion for this work will be invaluable assets in her new leadership role at the Trust.”
About the Melville Charitable Trust
Since its founding in 1990 the Melville Charitable Trust has upheld the conviction that homelessness is a solvable social issue and that safe, accessible, and affordable housing is an indispensable part of the solution. For nearly 30 years, the Trust has invested more than $150 million in grants, national collaboratives, and other program-related initiatives to advance proven, lasting, and cost-effective solutions that empower people with the least resources and biggest barriers to success. And where
solutions have not yet been identified, the Trust has supported exploration and innovation to find the most promising approaches. For more information, please visit
Melville Charitable Trust