Mat-Su homeless shelter and prevention program fears effects of deep budget cuts

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — With the prospect of a reduced FY2020 budget looming large over Alaska, many of the organizations that stand to lose state funding are concerned about their futures.

In Wasilla, Mat-Su Valley Family Promise which provides resources to at-risk families in need and is one of seven authorized distributors of basic housing assistance grants, is eyeing a loss of around $100,000 — roughly 50% of its total operating budget.

"The budget cuts would be devastating for various reasons for a lot of families," said Ginger Bear, a case manager at Family Promise.

Of the 1,885 families served by Mat-Su Family Promise in 2018, many were newly homeless, new to the area, facing medical issues or in another transitional phase in their lives. 40% of those that receive help from similar social programs are also under the age of 18.

Laurie Kari, executive director of Mat-Su Family Promise says that the local network of churches that make the work of her organization possible will continue to serve even if these cuts are made. Still, she says she's worried about what steep cuts will mean for homelessness prevention services across the state.

"It would really hurt. I'm not sure if we would be able to continue the case management side of the resources that we offer to the families," Kari said.

Kari says the loss of these programs could ultimately result in an increased number of families ending up in shelters and on the streets.

"Case management is the crucial part of getting folks self sustainable," Kari said. "It's a big difference change from prevention to having to pay for someone that's fallen into homelessness."

For now, the organization is watching and waiting for news on the budget.

Mat-Su Family promise is also organizing it's biggest annual fundraiser, "Cardboard City" which is set to take place on July 19. The event calls for participants to stay overnight in makeshift cardboard shelters, their cars, or an environment similar to what's experienced by local members of the homeless community.

The event raises funds to provide homeless families with opportunities to transition back into a stable living situation. You can find more information here.

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