Five years ago, a rough divorce upended Alice Interest’s life.
“We split up, I moved to Anchorage, and I’ve been struggling ever since,” she said. “I was couching it between two friends and working at the same time. Living out of a bag, basically. I couldn’t save money fast enough — I couldn’t work fast enough — for everything to fall into place.”
Spinal surgery and the kinds of chronic health problems that cause pain, insomnia and fatigue didn’t help. Plus, she needed a healthy environment, and that wasn’t happening at one of the places she was staying. Alice knew she needed to move on.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go next, where I was going to put my head down.”
Her case manager is proud of her for making that decision.
“Instead of staying in a toxic situation she made the right choice,” said Sarah Harris with Catholic Social Services’ Intensive Case Management program. “The right choices are the hardest.”
Starting over in Anchorage, Alice put her hopes in living situations that didn’t work out. At one point, to save money, she slept in a friend’s truck at the Centennial Park camp for people experiencing homelessness. The worst was her night at the Sullivan Arena’s congregate homeless shelter.
“I wept the moment I walked in there,” she said.
That night at the Sullivan qualified her for an assessment through Catholic Social Services (CSS), a part of the Anchorage Homeless Prevention & Response System convened by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. Sarah became her case manager and Alice got temporary housing at what was the Sockeye Inn. It now is the Complex Care facility operated by CSS for people with specialized needs, including seniors and medically fragile individuals.
With a shortage of low-income housing in Anchorage, the prospect of getting into a rental can be overwhelming. Landlords typically want first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit. With the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment at more than $1,000 — which may or may not include utilities — it can cost thousands to move in.
Alice has dealt with a lot, but things are looking up for her. Given her health issues, jobs involving physical labor aren’t a good fit. With the help of Cook Inlet Tribal Council, she is training to become a mid-level administrative assistant. And, with help from CSS, she finally has a place of her own, a studio apartment with a kind landlord who seems to understand the difficulties that life brings.
“I love it,” Alice says. “I can finally call something my home. I’m blessed right now. I’m very blessed and I’m going to keep working very hard to stay housed.”