Businesses listen and push for progress

Note: Rasmuson Foundation CEO Diane Kaplan is among the members of the Anchorage Homelessness Leadership Council.

A recent study found Anchorage residents consider homelessness to be a top issue the city must address, surpassing crime and public safety with 76% of locals labeling it a crisis or big problem. The professional study was commissioned by the local business community to gauge public interest, desire and determination to address homelessness. That study revealed Anchorage is ready to support initiatives that demonstrate lasting change for residents experiencing homelessness.

The Homelessness Leadership Council is a group of 11 Alaska business and civic leaders, representing some of the largest companies in the city, providing their expertise, resources and time to advance solutions to eliminate homelessness. The group meets monthly to review dashboards provided by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, review progress of city efforts, share research such as success stories of how similar communities are addressing homelessness and ask the hard questions.

“When you look at our council, we’re represented by professionals from the oil and gas industries, telecommunications, housing, Alaska Native regional corporations, faith-based and nonprofit sectors. We’re all around the table together to provide guidance and support to the city’s efforts to curb homelessness and ensure that efforts are measurable and sustainable. Our goal is that no Alaskan living in our city experiences homelessness and we’re encouraged that most residents believe there are solutions,” said HLC co-chair Preston Simmons, also chief executive for Providence Health & Services Alaska.

Key findings of those polled in the recent study include:

  • 90% believe the city should make mental health services available for locals experiencing homelessness.
  • Similarly, eight out of 10 support making available services that provide substance abuse treatment, job training, employment assistance and social worker and case management support.
  • 64% believe homelessness is an issue that can be solved.
  • 67% believe the issue of homelessness in Anchorage is worse than it was a year ago.
  • 86% understand that residents experiencing homelessness include locals who have jobs, children in the school system and those who rely on family and friends for housing or rent rooms by the week.
  • 69% know someone who has experienced homelessness, including families with children, young adults and youth.
  • 58% support Anchorage purchasing properties to house and care for individuals experiencing homelessness.

The council is supported by the expertise and dedicated guidance of Dick Mandsager, Rasmuson Foundation senior fellow and working to keep the business community engaged in homelessness solutions.

“Alaskans experiencing homelessness are, at the end of the day, Alaskans. In fact, seven out of 10 residents we spoke with shared that they personally knew someone that had experienced homelessness,” Mandsager said. “We’re here to take the politics out of progress, provide our collective resources and ensure that this community-wide issue is being addressed.”

“We know ending homelessness does not mean just providing shelter; to end the cycle, we have to provide the services to support our community members so that they can thrive in the workforce, be mentally healthy and secure life’s essentials,” said HLC member Paul Landes, a GCI senior vice president.

“We’re encouraged to learn that the majority of our community is on the same page about the importance of combatting homelessness in Anchorage,” added Landes. “We believe homelessness is a problem we can solve, and we can do that by providing people every opportunity for a person to move themselves out of the cycle of homelessness. These same efforts and services will help prevent many people from having to experience homelessness at all.”

“There’s more work to do,” said Mandsager. “As our economy recovers, so will our efforts to bring homelessness to zero. The two will work hand in hand.”

Solving homelessness builds a stronger and healthier community, a deeper workforce and improves the experience of every Anchorage resident.

About the Homelessness Leadership Council

The Homelessness Leadership Council formed to provide oversight and backbone support to the implementation of the Anchorage Strategic Action Plan to Solve Homelessness (Anchored Home). The businesses guide the city’s strategic vision that homelessness for people in Anchorage will be rare, brief and a one-time event by mobilizing and aligning resources; supporting public engagement and advancing public policy. The HLC provides a cross-sector perspective that is collaborative, experienced, analytical and invested in sustainable change. Members of the HLC include: Providence Health & Services Alaska, CIRI, GCI, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska Housing Finance Corp., First Presbyterian Church, Rasmuson Foundation, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Wells Fargo Alaska and Weidner Apartment Homes.

About the research

The research surveyed 410 residents above the age of 18 in the Municipality of Anchorage in December 2020. Gender, age and assembly district quotas were used to ensure accurate representation. The survey was conducted over cell phone and landline, with a ±4.8% margin of error at 95% confidence interval for total sample.

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Media contact:
Gary Scott, Thompson & Co. PR