Supporters rally to help the homeless in light of budget cuts
Natasha Gamache knows what it's like to be homeless. She is among the more than 250 people who filled Central Lutheran Church Sunday night to keep homeless programs operating, in light of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget veto.
"My children have been homeless with me. We've lived in tents, we've lived in cars, we've lived with family," said Gamache who wants to give hope to others who are homeless.
Pastor Matt Schultz of First Presbyterian Church is part of Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together (AFACT), which hosted the event.
"According to scripture, and our history of theology and churches throughout the world, serving the poor is not something we do, it's something we are," Schultz said. "If we're not serving the poor, we simply are not followers of Christ. If we're not serving the poor, we simply are not people of faith."
The governor vetoed $7.2 million for homeless assistance programs. The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness warns that's a large part of its funding.
"Budgets are moral documents, our faith tells us this is not okay, we are here to take care of each other, this isn't taking care at all," said Central Lutheran Church member Donna Graham.
The Brother Francis Shelter stands to lose more than a million dollars in funding. Operators say they will have to reduce the number of beds available each night from 240 to 100 if the veto stands. It's not just the homeless who will be impacted.
"We have already had conversations with our staff about if these vetoes go through, some of our staff are going to be getting 30-day notices coming up pretty soon," said Program Director David Rittenberg.
Meanwhile, Bean's Cafe will lose $127,000 in funds. The concern is there could be more people left out on the street if funding is cut for homeless programs.
"The bigger impact is on our providers who do the housing, the case management, we're really that bottom safety net. Without the levels above us, we will absolutely be overwhelmed," said Bean's Cafe Executive Director Lisa Sauder. "We are already at 500 people, in a facility built for 250."
Lawmakers meet Monday for a second special session where they will address the governor's vetoes.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the community members at Central United Methodist Church. They met at Central Lutheran Church.
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