We need to do more to end homelessness in Anchorage

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In 2016, Catholic Social Services set a goal for our community here in Anchorage — to find permanent housing for 10 percent of our clients experiencing homelessness. Between April 1 and December 1 of 2016, case managers at Catholic Social Services were able to support 302 guests in obtaining permanent housing. As we work toward March 31, 2017, the one-year anniversary, our goal is to house 446 people — that is 10 percent — and we are on track to meet and exceed that mark.

Our mission at CSS is to serve the most vulnerable in our community. We strive to reach out to those in greatest need.

Safe housing is one of the most basic needs of all people. We are an integral part of addressing homelessness in Anchorage. We provide the most emergency shelter beds in the city and we have a large cadre of case managers working diligently to move individuals and families into permanent housing. Still we recognize that we need to do more. We know that the poorest and the sick often cannot sustain permanent housing on their own. We know that we must support these people as they strive to obtain and sustain long-term success.

We have a mission combined with the expertise to accomplish that mission, and right now we have the moment. Our community is experiencing record numbers of people suffering homelessness. Our mayor, our city assembly members and our governor have each given the issue special attention and support. Many in Anchorage are highly motivated to help and we at Catholic Social Services have made the issue our focus.

Beginning in 2016 our Board of Trustees formally adopted “Preventing and Ending Homelessness” as the strategic focus of CSS.

As we continue our high caliber work across all eight of our programs, we are putting a special emphasis, and developing specific measures, to impact the problem of homelessness. We finalized our goals and developed our plans, and as of April 1, 2016 we began measuring the effect we are having. Our case managers have always worked with individuals to find permanent housing. This year, however, we changed our program model to use the housing first philosophy — and get individuals into housing first, as we work with them to address other barriers like health and employment.

By coordinating with partners across the city, we have connected many to permanent housing. Each of these people has their own story — some have ongoing mental health issues; some require support from vouchers or long-term rental subsidy because of their disability or age; some have medical issues; some need financial management training; and some need help finding a job. All of them needed to get out of homelessness. Along with partners across the city we were able to help relieve them of the trauma of not having their own place to sleep and allow them to focus on other parts of their lives. We made an impact.

We believe that this impact is just beginning. Our concern for the problem of homelessness is shared by many organizations, such as Providence Hospital, the United Way and the city. Working together and coordinating our activities will allow us to exponentially increase the impact we all have on homelessness. At CSS we are committed to ending homelessness in our city.

Happy 2017, and many blessings in reaching all of your goals in the New Year.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.

'We need to do more to end homelessness in Anchorage'
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