‘Every winter I worry’ about those Alaskans without shelter

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Winter is near, and we look around and ask ourselves, “Are we prepared?” In our community, do those without safe, warm shelter this winter have a place to go? Are all children going to be able to sleep inside? Can we get ahead of these problems? I have had this job for four winters, and every winter I worry. I am worried this winter about whether we will have enough space for all those in need at Brother Francis Shelter, Clare House and our partner shelters throughout the city. I have hope, though, which lies in our amazing staff and in long-term solutions for families — housing.

At Catholic Social Services (CSS), we are the leader in rapid rehousing, employing the largest group of housing case managers in the state. They ensure that people and families get into housing and stabilize — with the goal of permanent stability. Our model is all about the person. People experiencing the greatest need are referred to us from a list shared by many agencies. We house them with dedicated time and dollars. Most importantly, we keep working with them as they gain stability so they do not experience homelessness again.

This is a shift at CSS. We recognize that we must live out our mission to strengthen families. We do that by supporting them in finding permanent stability, which requires long-term housing, stable income, and social and emotional well-being. Once our case managers find housing for our clients, they work with them to maintain income and overcome life’s unexpected circumstances. Sometimes that could be childcare or snow tires for their car. These hurdles can be overwhelming challenges for people experiencing extreme poverty. Part of our work is supporting them through those crises, while working with them to create budgets and save money for the future. We help them build those skills over time. Lasting stability becomes possible with social and emotional well-being. CSS helps our clients find those connections.

This October, we want to inspire you to feel the hope our clients feel when we work together — restoring hope for a better future and a better life.

Let me tell you a story. I know a woman who has used many services at CSS. I first met her at Brother Francis Shelter when she was struggling with mental illness. I noticed her particularly because she was pregnant. Our staff moved her to Clare House to better support her during her pregnancy. She delivered a healthy baby, and her child was adopted. Although she had many ups and downs, she eventually found permanent housing. Her CSS housing case manager worked with her to create a budget and secure income. She even established a relationship with her daughter’s adoptive family. Her struggles were great, but her life is so much better now.

For years, I saw her at St. Francis House Food Pantry, where she supplemented her income. Then, I didn’t see her for months. Recently I bumped into her again. She had stopped by CSS to drop off books she had read. She wanted to share them with others who were struggling. Even though so many challenges were placed before her, she overcame them with support, hard work, and connection. We believed in her. That is what we strive to do every day at CSS.

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

'‘Every winter I worry’ about those Alaskans without shelter' have 1 comment

  1. October 2018 @ 12:13 am Kevin Joseph

    I would like to know how you would solve the problem of those people who prefere to sleep rough on the streets probably begging. These are also homeless people. In winter some organisations give winter shelter. But I have been told that these people prefer to sleep on the streets esp. during the day time. They are not able to work. They just prefer to live on govt. benefits. Is there any solution to permanently solve this on going problem. I will appreciate your thoughts on this issue. Many thanks.


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