by RurAL CAP Staff
In December of 2011, the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. (RurAL CAP) opened Karluk Manor, Anchorage’s inaugural Housing First facility, to eligible populations.
For nine years, Karluk Manor has provided 46-units of permanent, supportive housing to vulnerable, chronically homeless individuals struggling with alcohol dependence. Many tenants have mobility issues, mental health disorders, brain injuries, and special needs.
Housing First operates with the belief that “people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues,” as described on the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) website. Likewise, Karluk Manor provides long-term support and services for individuals with a high level of need, helping them move toward self-sufficiency.
In 2020, RurAL CAP celebrated the success of Edlore, one of Karluk Manor’s original tenants, who transitioned to Wyoming where he lives near his three grandchildren.
Edlore grew up in Wyoming. At age 20, he served in the Persian Gulf War before relocating to Alaska. Four years later, Edlore found himself experiencing homelessness due to battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and alcohol abuse. During this period, he looked forward to working at fish canneries during the summer because they provided him with meals, housing, and stability. His off seasons involved an unpredictable cycle of incarceration, substance abuse, and instability. Despite the day-to-day inconsistency, he hoped for an apartment and to return to Wyoming.
“I always wanted to go home in the back of my mind,” Edlore said. “I thought about getting an apartment and job and I just never found the resources or looked for them.” Then, Edlore discovered Karluk Manor.
While visiting Bean’s Cafe, a local food and shelter resource, an Outreach Specialist approached and asked if Edlore was interested in Supportive Housing. He said yes. Then, two weeks after filing paperwork, that same Outreach Specialist took him to Karluk Manor.
Originally, Edlore continued drinking. “I was drinking all the time … But I always wanted to come home.” During this period, Karluk Manor staff worked with Edlore to schedule voluntary medical appointments and case management services. After a serious life event, Edlore’s desire to be present for his grandchildren drove him toward sobriety. Now, Edlore has been sober for almost four years, enabling him to return to his three grandchildren in Wyoming.
During Edlore’s stay at Karluk Manor, he watched other residents follow a similar path: “people come in with nothing, and then two, three months later, they’re nice and clean and taking care of themselves … I was the same way. I came in with just what I was wearing.”
Now, Edlore recommends the program to individuals facing similar life-challenges because, although it may take time, he believes “it works in the long run.”
Karluk Manor’s tenants reinforce the success of the Housing First model. From the 46 units, 140 individuals have been served over a 9-year period with approximately 16 new households entering Karluk Manor per year. A three-year study of Karluk Manor by the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies demonstrated the success of the Housing First model by showcasing reductions in the usage of emergency services (safety centers, homeless shelters, police involvement, etc.) by tenants. Meanwhile, 82 percent of all RurAL CAP’s Supportive Housing residents retained housing for one year or more in 2020.
Today, RurAL CAP actively partners in Anchored Home: 2018 to 2021, Anchorage’s community plan to Solve Homelessness in collaboration with the Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, and community partners. Those interested in supporting our Housing programs can learn more at ruralcap.org.
RurAL CAP is a private, statewide, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is governed by a 24-member Board of Directors representing the public sector, the private sector, and the different regions of rural Alaska. With a mission to empower low-income Alaskans through advocacy, education, affordable housing and direct services that respect Alaskan’s unique values and cultures, RurAL CAP collaborates with community partners to ensure that all Alaskans have access to the vital services needed to promote the vision of Healthy People, Sustainable Communities, Vibrant Cultures.