Major grant to aid in rural youth homelessness

October 24, 2019: Today at My House in Wasilla, Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy and Dr. Tamika Ledbetter, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, announced a recurring two-year grant of $1.65 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for new programs to prevent and treat youth homelessness across rural Alaska.

The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program requires a variety of stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process, including Youth Action Boards composed of youth who are or have been homeless.

“This partnership between local, state and federal stakeholders is a leading example of utilizing resources to spur new programs aimed at addressing Alaska’s homeless youth. While many existing programs are adult-led, this youth-led grant can change the course of our homeless youths’ lives to become productive members of society by focusing on training and education rather than food and shelter only,” Dunleavy said. “I look forward to seeing the evolution of this grant and the many ways it will propel our youth to a brighter and safer future.”

In 2017, Anchorage received Round 1 YHDP funding, and this recent award makes Alaska one of a select few states to have full coverage of dedicated YHDP funding. HUD awarded $75 million to 23 communities nationwide in Round 3 of funding in 2019. The two-year grant funding is in perpetuity and requires a state match of $250,000, which was offered by DOLWD.

“I am pleased that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was able to provide the seed money which leveraged $1.65 million in federal funding,” Ledbetter said. “The Housing and Urban Development Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project funding will triple the amount of federal dollars coming to Alaska to address the pervasive problem of youth homelessness. There are many young Alaskans who struggle with the basics of a place to stay while also juggling school or employment responsibilities. The HUD funding will focus on innovative community based housing solutions developed with the valuable input of youth who have experienced firsthand the hardships of homelessness.”

According to My House Executive Director Michelle Overstreet, “Alaska has the highest rates of addiction, sexual assault, domestic violence and suicide in the nation. When we started My House 10 years ago, we were determined to address these issues, to be better as a community and better as Alaskans. The youth of Alaska deserve better and we can all work together to be part of the solution. This funding will help support programs across Alaska to do better and be better for Alaskan homeless youth and we are encouraged by the state support for this funding.”

YHDP funding must be used to create new programs for homeless Alaskans under age 25. The Alaska Coalition of Housing and Homelessness will facilitate the planning process with stakeholders such as statewide communities, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, the Alaska Office of Children’s Services and related youth agencies. The funding will be utilized to stand up programs outside Anchorage that reduce barriers to housing and connect youth to employment opportunities and job skills training.

The department expects funding by late 2020.

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