Let us stand up for U.S. veterans

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It’s the beginning of our new fiscal year and we are mid-way through our process of implementing our new blueprint as an agency. This provides a plan for us to focus on a specific goal — transitioning adults and families to permanent stability.

This impact is one we measure in ways across the agency, and one that challenges us to look deeply at our services. We must assure that we are both providing a social safety net in our community, and that we are also building and supporting ladders out of poverty, vulnerability and challenges so that people are stable in housing and income, supported in their health and wellbeing, and connected in our community.

Each of us experiences challenges and need each other, especially when our life is full of trauma. We work to tailor our services to assure basic safety — shelter and food — and to build with our clients, their resilience and community connection with the goal of stability, self-sufficiency and ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

This year, as a part of our blueprint we are investing in our data and quality improvement to ensure that the tested interventions we are using are tailored to our community in Anchorage, and that our goals of permanent housing, stable income, and social and emotional wellbeing for clients are being met.

Another component of our blueprint is partnership. We are proud of our strong and growing partnerships with entities across the community. Currently, there is a concerted effort to align community efforts around homelessness, and Catholic Social Services, as one of the largest homelessness providers in the state, is working on solutions. Recently I was honored to go on a trip with leaders from Anchorage to see homeless services in Houston, Texas, where incredible strides have been made. Between 2011 and 2018, Houston reduced the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness by half – and they moved them into housing. On that trip, I learned how we can work together. We also shared our Alaska successes with them. I was so proud to talk about our connections as a community, and how all the hospitals and healthcare organizations in the city are working to reduce homelessness, and about our medical respite at Brother Francis Shelter. I was also proud to talk about the close partnership of homeless service providers in our community – providers like Bean’s Café, AWAIC, Salvation Army and Covenant House – and so many others. These partners who are a phone call away, and when we are short diapers at Clare House, they are the first to drive over their extra supply. Our community and state are special because of the people who live here.

While on that trip, we also talked about veteran homelessness. Alaska has the highest percentage of veterans of any state in the U.S. We estimate there are 76 U.S. veterans in Anchorage who are without housing. That is an issue we can address in partnership with other agencies and the city. Let us work to reach those veterans. These are men and women who have served our country and protected us. Now we have a chance to reach out to them when they need a little support.

I have had the honor of meeting many veterans. I have met them at Brother Francis Shelter and in our St. Francis House Pantry. I have also met them in our other services – in our Family Disabilities Services and our Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services Program. They embody the work of CSS – they volunteered to help and support their community and country, and now when they need help and support, CSS can offer that to them.

Last year, with your support, CSS housed 988 individuals — 98 of them were veterans.

Let us make this year, fiscal year 2020, the year we reach all our veterans in Anchorage. Happy Independence Day and thanks to all veterans for your service.

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

'Let us stand up for U.S. veterans'
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