As I write this I sit waiting to hear if there is any chance of funds being put back towards critical services, like homeless shelters, by our state government. This has been a summer of turmoil and questions. When I think about the challenge it has been, I am reminded of our staff at Catholic Social Services, the people we gave notice to in the middle of July because funds were cut, and the extreme challenge it has been for them. I think of our clients and the months ahead they may have to sleep outside in the night, or care for their small children outside in the day if they are a mom staying at Clare House. Perhaps by the time you read this, the funding will have been restored, at least in part for the winter. Or perhaps not. I do not know.
In these times of darkness and not knowing, I reach out to others in our community for their support and I rely on prayers. I know that we have faced challenges before and weathered many storms. I also know there have been casualties of those storms, and I just hope we can reduce the pain and suffering to the greatest degree possible.
I have hope though, because I know all of the services that are looking at potential reductions were started by caring and motivated people in this community who would not allow their brothers and sisters to suffer. Homeless Family Services, our housing case managers, began as a way to help families staying in churches in the winter. It has expanded so much, and last year we got more than 120 households into housing with the State Basic Homeless Assistance Program funds.
Brother Francis Shelter started as an act of love by Brother Bob and Brother Dave, with the support of the late Archbishop Francis Hurley, to assure that adults did not die sleeping outside in our cold winters. It started in partnership with our municipality and with so many individuals in the community — individuals who still support more than 80 percent of the costs of Brother Francis Shelter.
Clare House came from a group of local neighbors who knew a mom and her kids who were sleeping in their car. They activated to find a solution for her and others in the same predicament. From that kernel of kindness has grown Clare House that shelters up to 100 people, usually more than 60 of them children, all year long.
I feel proud that as nonprofits and a faith community we are doing our part. Catholic Social Services is the largest homeless service provider in the state, and that is a direct outpouring of the love and compassion from you in our Catholic parishes, sharing your support with us through funding, volunteering and donations.
We are proud at CSS that we save our state and our community millions of dollars while we provide these services. We are efficient and effective in everything we do, utilizing best practices while also providing compassion. Over 90 percent of our clients report being treated with dignity and respect.
We are your agency, and I ask for your continued prayers and support. I also want to thank you for all your support throughout the year, for all the special messages so many of you sent to me and our team at Catholic Social Services during this challenging summer, and your advocacy for the vulnerable.
You and our clients continue to give me hope; I hope we do that for you too.
The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.