Bezos announces fund to help homeless families, pre-schools

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But he had not engaged in much philanthropy - at least publicly - until this week.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) founder and the world's richest person, said on Thursday he will commit $2 billion to helping homeless families and starting pre-schools for low-income communities.

The Day 1 Families Fund will issue annual leadership awards to organizations that are doing "needle-moving" work to provide shelter and hunger support for families with young children.

The world's richest man made the announcement on Twitter a year after he asked for ideas on how he could use his personal fortune - estimated to be about $163bn (£124.34bn) - for charitable efforts.

At the same dinner, Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, warned that US President Donald Trump's attacks on the media are unsafe for the country and that his attacks risk eroding protections and social norms important for democracy.

Numerous world's wealthiest individuals and families are turning their focus to charitable giving. In 2011, Bezos and his wife donated $15 million to Princeton University, their alma mater, to create the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics, which develops new techniques to study brain function.

In a June 2017 letter published in Forbes, philanthropy adviser Jake Hayman criticised Bezos for focusing on short-term solutions and deciding to seek suggestions on Twitter.

"The answer is not to provide shelter and employment services to homeless families everywhere but instead to fix the systems that have consistently and repeatedly failed people to the point at which they rely on charity", Hayman wrote.

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"So when someone like Jeff Bezos admirably steps into the area of giving, it's helpful but we also have systematic problems in wages and labor, healthcare and education, that need to be addressed at the root". "But I will say this: I do think it's a mistake for any elected official to attack media and journalists". "If you're the president of the United States or a governor of a state or whatever, you don't take that job thinking you're not going to get scrutinized". They're still going to want fast delivery. "They are perfectly productive members of society".

"Two billion dollars is a lot of money, and it could do an incredible amount of good", said Henry Berman, CEO of Exponent Philanthropy, a nonprofit that supports leanly-staffed philanthropic groups. Forbes magazine placed him at the top of its list of billionaires for the first time this year, surpassing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett.

The investment will be split equally between financing existing organizations that combat homelessness and its new preschool initiative.

The "Day 1" name comes from Bezos' insistence that it is always Day 1 at Amazon.

Along with Amazon, the tech mogul also owns space exploration company Blue Origin and newspaper The Washington Post.

Gates now ranks second in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, trailing Bezos by roughly US$66 billion.

The Amazon founder, whose fortune has risen by $64.7bn (£49.3bn) in the past year alone, "has long faced scrutiny for his lack of a major philanthropic initiative", says The Guardian.

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