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Catholic Social Services uses $5 million grant to help homeless families

The invisible homeless
The invisible homeless
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 5:49 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There’s another homeless population that some have dubbed “invisible." Catholic Social Services Director Lisa Aquino said that the population consists of homeless families that number more than a thousand in Anchorage.

“They are doubled or tripled-up In apartments. They are sleeping on people’s couches or in their cars. They don’t know where they are going to stay tonight,” she said.

Aquino said the agency will use a $5 million grant it received from a foundation run by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to target homeless families in Anchorage. The initiative, called Flourishing Families, will expand on things Catholic Social Services is already doing, including providing rapid rehousing and piloting a diversion program that looks to help people who are not in the homeless system at all.

“It’s about reaching out and trying to find them just before they are coming into our shelter system,” said Aquino. “Connecting them with resources and getting them to permanent stability.”

Aquino said the grant is flexible, which means it can be used for things beyond housing to help someone get a job or keep one. It includes intervention services for the entire family so that children can receive counseling for the trauma that homelessness can entail.

Aquino said Catholic Social Services would work with other agencies including the Anchorage School District to identify families who may need help.

“In this community, we are not going to let a child sleep outside," she said.

She said the agency will work to find continued funding sources so the goal of ending family homelessness in Anchorage will become reality sooner rather than later.

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