Path to Independence

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz speaks April 18 about Path to Independence. Photo by Jason Moore.

Initiative Looks at New Approaches to Solving Homelessness in Anchorage

A new, innovative program that seeks to quickly house individuals and families experiencing homelessness and help them remain housed permanently, Path to Independence comprises a network of partners committed to changing the way the Anchorage community views, and solves, homelessness.

Indigenous people are disproportionately represented among populations experiencing homelessness. For example, while Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) people make up only 15 percent of Alaska’s population, they make up an estimated 45 percent of its homeless population.

For some, a stroke of bad luck or the lack of a safety net are all it takes to make them homeless. But current and historical trauma among indigenous people also factors into the prevalence and risk of homelessness, with AN/AI populations at high risk for many of the conditions that lead to and/or sustain homelessness, including disproportionately high rates of poverty, domestic and other violence, and behavioral health disorders.

Administered by Catholic Social Services to help people in the Anchorage bowl access stable housing, in its first year, Path to Independence will work to house 40 individuals/families – half of whom are expected to be AN/AI – and will pair housing assistance with requirements to prepare for and pursue employment. This is a model that has proven effective in other states and communities.

According to the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, lack of employment/income is the most reported cause of homelessness in Anchorage. Path to Independence will help participants simultaneously pursue stable housing, long-term employment and additional support services. Partners include landlords, case management, referral, job training/education and supportive service providers, and funders.

CIRI recently accepted an opportunity to engage as a funding partner for Path to Independence. Along with a $200,000 commitment from Weidner Apartment Homes, CIRI joined with the 11 other Alaska Native regional corporations to pledge more than $50,000.

“We are pleased to support this innovative effort to provide homeless Alaskans with safe, stable housing and sustainable employment opportunities,” said CIRI President and CEO Sophie Minich. “Homelessness is not a new issue in our communities, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for new approaches to solving it. We’re excited about being part of the Path to Independence network and, more critically, part of the solution to ending homelessness among our people.”

For more information, contact Municipality of Anchorage Communications Specialist Katie Dougherty, (907) 310-4550, [email protected].