Rural communities get federal funding to fight youth homelessness
Homeless youth are getting a hand up with a large federal grant aimed at providing more programs and services.
On Thursday afternoon at the MyHouse nonprofit in Wasilla, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Alaska will receive $1.65 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The recurring two-year grant funds were awarded in perpetuity, according to a release from the governor's office, and will create the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
The federal funds required a state match of $250,000, which was pledged by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
It will be used in communities outside of Anchorage, which received $1.5 million in 2017 during the first round of grants. The money must be used to create new programs for Alaskans under the age of 25 who are experiencing homelessness.
An advisory board of youth will be tasked with coming up with solutions.
“When it comes to anything from addiction to homelessness, those individuals that actually experience these issues probably have often times some of the best answers,” Dunleavy said at the press conference.
MyHouse founder and executive director Michelle Overstreet said the organization works with hundreds of clients around the Mat-Su.
Overstreet called the funding a “glimmer of hope,” especially for rural communities around the state.
“I think it’s a first step in the right direction of providing services and education and training that will help them be independent and sustainable,” Overstreet said.
Aria Phillips, who’s just a few days shy of turning 20, knows how important housing is.
She moved from Sitka to the Valley to live with extended family. When they moved to the Lower 48, she was left without a place to stay and turned to MyHouse.
“The café wasn’t even open and I walked in and I was like, ‘Hey I need a little bit of help.’ Jim, one of the case managers, made me a cup of coffee and said, ‘Come in, sit down, let’s talk,’” Phillips said.
She’s currently living in the MyHouse transitional housing and got an internship at the Gathering Grounds coffee shop.
“It was relieving. It was a big weight off my shoulders like I can finally level out for a little bit and regain my footing,” Phillips said.
She said the housing gave her a sense of security.
“It’s a place to start. You don’t have to worry about where you’re going to go after work,” Phillips said.
Overstreet hopes more funds will help more youth like Phillips find their way off the streets and into the workplace.
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