Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Anchorage Assembly Have Mid-Day Work Session on Homeless Issues

 I went to the Assembly Homeless Public Hearing today.  There were about 40 people in the audience and about 25% were wearing masks most of the time.  

Let me  highlight what I took away from the meeting.  These were the three issues that seemed to be problems that were raised for the Assembly to try to resolve or at least understand.

  • Measurement - HMIS (Homeless Management Information System)  - They've come a long way since I took the Olé 8 week homeless class.  To plan for the future they have to count the homeless.  They have to be able to identify the different kinds of homeless - those who have lost a job or had overwhelming medical expenses;  those who are working but don't earn enough; those who are chronically homeless, perhaps addicted or mentally ill or badly physically disabled.  Several people mentioned a man with no hands who is homeless.
Click on Image to Enlarge
Then there is the issue of tracking these individuals.  This chart tells us that most of the agencies dealing with the homeless are now inputing information.  But COVID meant HUD required additional data and the work of inputting it all is becoming a problem and all that additional info is making the system harder to use.  But they also said that Anchorage has been cited as the location with the most complete data base tracking of homeless.  

These aren't problems unique to this data base.  Competing interests for which data to include, how to integrate the data, and usefulness to end users are always problematic.  And the more you add the slower it all gets and harder to use.  

Again, click to enlarge

  • Obstacles Homeless People Face Getting Service 
    • One speaker mentioned that people get to her agency with complaints of not being helped by other agencies.  An Assembly members asked why the others couldn't help.  The answer was:  Different agencies have different grants which often restrict who they can serve - maybe women with children, youth, long term homeless, disabled.  Or they are funded to provide a specific service.  
    • The data base is supposed to help coordinate these kinds of problems, but, as I understood it, it's easier to find programs than to track individuals as they use services of different programs
  • Problems Getting Appropriated Funding To Service Providers
    • The Assembly has appropriated monies for different agencies, but the process of actually getting the money to them is slowed down by federal requirements.  The slide below was put up in part response to this question, but I don't see that it addresses the issue in detail

A number of agency heads or high level employees answered questions from the Assembly.  

Jasmine Boyle is the Executive Director of the Anchorage Homeless Coalition.  When I took the homeless class we heard her name often and she was scheduled to talk to the class several times, but there were always crises that came up and I never got to see her before today.  

Lisa  Sauder is the Executive Director of Bean's Cafe.

[Sorry, I was sitting on the left and got only profiles.]

There were slides that showed numbers of homeless in recent years in summer and winter.  There were predictions of the numbers of beds needed this winter.  Most of the slides about how many homeless at the meeting are at this url.

But I left sort of scratching my head.  What was the goal of this meeting?  Was it for the Assembly to get information?  Most of this they should already have.  Was it a public education meeting?  There wasn't much public there.  (Maybe it was televised, I didn't check.)  For me the three bullet points above seemed to be the things the Assembly members found most helpful - the measurement issues, the obstacles to getting service, and the hold up of the appropriated money getting to the service agencies.  

But the critical issues - what's going to happen when the federal funds to keep Sullivan Arena open as a homeless shelter end in August? - well I didn't see much progress toward answering that question.  

1 comment:

  1. You are missing the elephant in the room. You have a lot of people who do not want help and they are the ones that are causing the problems. Drive by Northern Lights and Seward Highway any day. They use to have laws against vagrancy and loitering that need to be enforced. Back in the day they use to have something called 'tough love'. The city needs to set a space aside for these folks, you can do your drugs and drink all you want you just can't do it on the street (or have sex at the corner of Denali and Northern Lights in the middle of the day}. Yes I know many of these people have mental problems but it does not give them the right to do what ever they want where ever they want. By not getting them off the street you are just enabling them to kill themselves a little quicker ( I think one got hit by a motorcycle yesterday). And, I am getting tired of having to adjust my life cater to their whims and life style. There are parks and trails I cannot go to anymore. Went to Titlewave and someone has to take you to the bathroom because they keep them locked as well as a lot of other places. What I call the 'homeless industrial complex' is not going to solve this.



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