Private donors warn state not to cut homelessness funding after $40 million donation

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - State funding is an essential part of many of the services and programs that assist homeless members of the Anchorage population, but the private sector is throwing its hat into the ring as well.

A total of $40 million over the next five years was promised in September from four private investors: The Rasmuson Foundation, Primera Blue Cross Blue Shield, Providence Healthcare and Weidner Apartment Homes.

The money will fund an innovative plan for bringing down the number of homeless people in Anchorage, mimicking similar strategies that have proven incredibly effective in the Lower 48. However, the new source of private funding relies heavily on the state dollars that have been allocated regularly in the past. Without that foundation, Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan said she fears that all the progress made up to this point will be halted.

"We know there are cities that have spent way more than we would ever spend and they haven't seen any results," Kaplan said. "We don't want to make that same mistake. Why not spend our money in a way that is compassionate rather than in picking up the pieces on broken lives?"

Organizations such as Catholic Social Services also remain heavily dependent on state funds, despite the fact that this money only accounts for a small share of its overall budget.

CSS Executive Director Lisa Aquino said that Brother Francis Shelter operates "in the red" every year due to the difficulties of maintaining a low-barrier shelter.

"Our shelters are 80 percent funded by private donations, but they rely on some limited state dollars," Aquino said. "When those state dollars were cut as a part of the veto process, we needed to make some tough decisions."

Thankfully, those decisions were never made. The cuts were undone earlier this summer. Gov. Mike Dunleavy referred to that moment as the beginning of a serious discussion over the future of the state. The private funders who put up $40 million of their own money said they are hoping that future includes the state dollars needed to begin making strides towards the end of homelessness in Anchorage.

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