In a new push to fight homelessness in Anchorage, four private and nonprofit groups announced Wednesday they will spend $40 million over the next five years to find solutions.

The four funders and their commitments are:

•     Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska:  $5 million over three years
•     Providence Health and Services Alaska: $15 million over five years
•     Rasmuson Foundation: $10 million over three years
•     Weidner Apartment Homes: $10 million over five years

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the money could go a long way towards solving a serious problem.

"What we're doing right now is basically just treading water," he said. "If we have the ability to do more things than we can solve more problems. This is fundamentally a question of resources. If we have more resources, we can have more results."

One thing not announced at the Wednesday press conference is what, specifically, the money would go for.

Dr. Dick Mandsager, who is working on homeless issues on behalf of the Rasmuson Foundation, said a consultant is advising where gaps in service exist and how the money could be best spent. Mandsager said it's likely funding would be used to expand both existing programs  as well as adding new ones. 

"We need more permanent supportive housing. We need day shelter. We need to continue funding data systems so we know if things make a difference," he said. "We need to continue to invest in what we call 'rapid re-housing' for folks that have a good chance to move back into independence. [...] We need to scale those programs up."

Mandsager said one thing that could help prevent homelessness is to provide more safety nets to people who are at immanent risk of landing on the streets. 

"The 211 system is a static system, we don't have support for people right away. Other communities have made a big difference by keeping people from dropping into homelessness," he said. "We need to invest in some of those kinds of projects and programs."

Mandsager said he expects to have more information on specific projects in the next few weeks. That's about the time the city expects to release the latest numbers from a homeless count in August.

The Anchorage Coalition to end Homelessness has started publishing details about the people served this year. For more information, visit their website.

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