More than ten thousand Anchorage residents live in poverty. More than a thousand are homeless. The new mayor, Dave Bronson, wants to set up a shelter for them in district 5, East of the city. Does Bronson want to ghettoize his opponent’s (in the last election) district? Andrew Funk, the world’s foremost expert on homelessness, with three programs that could help Anchorage’s “homeless,” says the collective must be “given a voice” and “job opportunities and active citizenship” created for them.
“I’m having to do a lot of work because of Bronson’s proposal,” Forrest Dunbar hastily comments to Sol de Medianoche. We would have liked Dave Bronson to explain his reasons to this newspaper’s audience, but he doesn’t respond to our requests.
“Homelessness is not solved by confining the homeless to a ghetto,” says American Andrew Funk, one of the world’s leading experts on homelessness, founder and global CEO of Homeless Entrepreneur, a non-profit organization in the United States and Europe.
“In January 2018, according to the White House, there were a total of 552,830 homeless people, of which 358,363 (65%) were sheltered in temporary housing and about 194,467 (35%) were homeless” says Andrew Funk.
Funk has a degree in Philosophy and Economics from the University of Arizona. He completed a four-year degree in only three years. But his talent didn’t save him from becoming homeless in some countries, although it did help him to get out of homelessness and, equally important, to help some of the world’s homeless get a job to earn a living, and decent housing to live in.
Presence in Alaska Andrew has spoken at leading international forums to discuss homelessness and how cities can solve this important social problem. Forums and institutions such as the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and some “economic summits” such as the G7 and G20 meetings.
“We have three programs that have the capacity to help homeless people in Alaska and anywhere in the United States: first, Homeless Helpline; second, Homeless Voices; and third, the HELP program,” he explains. “The primary presence of our telephone helpline and Homeless Voices program is Europe and the Americas; the HELP program is primarily in Spain and Switzerland, and the Homeless Helpline in Barcelona, Spain.”
Bronson’s wrong decision “Dave Bronson’s intentions are misguided,” Funk points out. “It is very common for politicians in government to try to hide problems, rather than solve them. However, every policy will have opposition and criticism. Some people have commented that $15,000,000 to build a temporary structure with annual operating costs of about $12,000,000 is too costly and carrying it out between July and the end of September is impractical. Considering that the housing is contemplated for 400 beds, the yearly price per person to maintain it would be about $30,000. Currently, there are doubts about the ability to raise these funds on such short notice, which could prevent these measures from getting off the ground.”
“The important thing is for the criticism to be constructive and the goal between all of us to end homelessness,” says Funk. “A macro space where you offer a solution for everything is ideal, but not practical for the homeless. We would have to look at who would be a good fit for this model. But there would be people who would need a different housing model and another policy. I think other alternatives should be added. Homeless people are homeless for a variety of reasons and need eclectic solutions. As much as we think ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution won’t work.”
“Let them give the homeless a voice” “I recommend that they include the voice and opinion of the homeless people they want to house there. They should survey their needs and interests to align them with courses of action and a transitional plan for the city. This knowledge would help the Municipality recognize how to achieve the positive change desired by all,” says Funk.
The global CEO of Homeless Entrepreneur recalls that Bronson has said that “it is necessary to get homeless people into the system to help those who want to improve their lives.” He notes, “the specific measures they decide to pursue will have their fruits and failures, like all policy, and will hopefully lead to positive developments for the homeless population in Anchorage, creating job opportunities and active citizenship.”
Outreach Programs Actions to help the “homeless” vary depending on the organization than handles them. But none involve confinement. Another organization active in Anchorage is run by Lisa Aquino from Catholic Social Services. It houses more than one hundred and fifty homeless people a day and offers two outreach programs: Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House, among others. The facilities of both are more than emergency shelters for adults and their families.
The administrators of these services for homeless families work around the clock to help these individuals move out of homelessness and experience renewed potential with dignity and respect. Nothing to do with ghettos that, instead of socially integrating, isolate. Catholic Social Services serves a large international geographic area (Canada, United States, Australia.) Jeff Bezos, until recently Amazon’s CEO, donated five million dollars last October to help the homeless in Anchorage, especially children.
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