Alaskan advocates fly to Washington in hopes of ending homelessness

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Alaskans are in our nation’s capital this week in search of answers for the state’s homeless problem. The team from the Last Frontier says it needs all the help it can get.

At the 2018 Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, advocates from around the country were looking for ways to end homelessness. Michelle Overstreet says a one-size-fits all approach won’t work for Alaskans.

“67 percent of our clients leave home because it’s safer for them on the streets than it is at home,” said Overstreet.

Overstreet says a wide array of issues has lead to more than two thousand Alaskans without a home. Building costs are high, transportation isn’t accessible and she says the state has high rates of domestic violence, mental health issues and drug abuse. Overstreet is the Founder and Executive Director of MyHouse Mat-Su Homeless Youth Center in Wasilla, AK. She says kids across Alaska deserve a chance to land on their feet after fleeing their homes.

“If we give them a platform, if we provide a safety net for them, they will fly,” said Overstreet.

She and her colleague Scott Ciambor were looking to the conference and Capitol Hill for help. They rely on federal dollars for programs that rehouse homeless individuals and get them back on their feet.

“We know that these things work and help people in need, “said Ciambor, chief housing officer for the city and borough of Juneau and the board chair for the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.

Ciambor says they inject federal money into existing programs and incentivize the community to come up with new efforts to end homelessness. There is a federal competition that awards money to those who come up with ways to address pressing issues, like domestic violence.

“These are things that all communities need to address and come up with systems that can really decrease the time that people experience homelessness,” said Ciambor.

Ciambor and Overstreet say they are waiting for members of Congress to finalize a spending package for 2019 that funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s the department that helps fund many of thier programs.