Once-homeless man finds housing, says mayor is fulfilling campaign promises
Finding an affordable place to live can be a challenge in Anchorage. It is especially difficult for the homeless. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz hopes to make the process easier with his Homelessness Action Plan, which includes moving 300 homeless people into permanent housing in three years.
Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP) has been an integral part of that plan, particularly with its Sitka Place housing complex. There, 56 people who were previously homeless have found a place to live.
“Living in a tent, it’s not a home. You’re always on the move,” said Swande Norback, who was homeless for 15 years.
He said he began living in a tent after a divorce. Before long, it was difficult for him to fight the urge to drink.
“A lot of people drink because it hides the pain,” he said.
A few months ago, RurAL CAP contacted him as a potential candidate to move into Sitka Place. In order to be a resident, a candidate has to work with a case manager and explain his or her living situation. Since moving in, Norback said he has gained a sense of community.
“They’ll ask me how I’m doing,” he said. “They’re good people. They really do care.”
While he does not have a consistent job, he said he regularly finds work as a day laborer.
“At the end of the day, after you work good and hard, you sweat and feel good about yourself,” Norback said. “I earned this money myself. I don’t have to beg for it.”
When he was homeless, he often ate at the Downtown Soup Kitchen or Bean’s Café. Now he cooks for himself daily. Norback also reads books from Sitka Place’s communal library. He said Berkowitz is following through on his promises to help the homeless population.
“It makes me feel good,” Norback said. “We’re not getting lip service. We’re actually accomplishing something.”
Rent at Sitka Place is determined on a case-by-case basis. Residents are charged on a sliding scale based on how much they earn. The complex is open to both men and women.
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