Legislature urged to restore funding for programs and services for the homeless

Just as the Anchorage community is making progress to address the persistent issue of homelessness, cuts to the State of Alaska budget are certain to worsen the problem and push more people—including women, children, seniors and those with disabilities—onto the streets and into camps. In fact, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage is estimated to increase by nearly 800 in the coming year because of these cuts.

That is the message of the Anchorage Homelessness Leadership Council, which met Thursday to assess the impacts of the recent budget vetoes. The group concluded the breadth and depth of the cuts will be severe and, if unchecked, life-threatening. They urge the Legislature to restore the funds.

In Anchorage alone, hundreds of elders can barely afford their housing. They depend on senior benefits, without which they will decide between eating, paying for medicine or being safely housed. The loss of the senior benefit program is on top of the $9 million in cuts to homelessness services.

Below are additional short-term impacts of the vetoes:

•More than 225 people currently staying in temporary shelters will be pushed onto the streets of Anchorage.

•By August, about 80 women and their children will be on the streets during the day if shelters reduce operations from 24 hours to overnight only. These women will have an extra barrier to re-entering the workforce with fewer safe daytime childcare options.

•The number of people housed nightly at Brother Francis Shelter will drop from 240 to 100.

•More than 550 year-round slots for housing those who have been recently homeless will be eliminated in Anchorage.

•Housing support has ended for many people who have recently been released from jail or prison. At least 150 individuals are impacted daily.

•Across Alaska, more than 17,400 low-income families ($30,750 income for a four-member household) will face new struggles through funding cuts to: agencies that operate food pantries, early childhood education, Medicaid funding

In Anchorage, promising new solutions to homelessness are just getting going and are experiencing early success. An initiative launched in 2018 draws on the resources of the business community, health care industry, private funders and government to turn the corner on what many in Anchorage have identified as their No. 1 issue. With the cuts, the Homelessness Leadership Council said, Anchorage is taking a big step backward.

“The timing couldn’t be worse. Anchorage is the only West Coast city where the homeless population is not on the rise,” said Dick Mandsager, a senior fellow at Rasmuson Foundation working on homelessness. “These funding cuts stop the progress we were starting to see through our public-private partnership.”