Advocates in Alaska are celebrating the creation of a new state office devoted exclusively to developing and supporting solutions to homelessness. The State Homeless Housing Office, launched on January 26, will be the first effort of its kind in Alaska’s history. Governor Bill Walker (I) praised the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) for their work on the effort, which he says will bring “innovation to the way the agency has historically addressed vulnerable Alaskans without access to housing.” Having state staff specifically dedicated to ending homelessness has long been a priority of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (AKCH2), an NLIHC state partner.
The role of the new Statewide Homeless Housing Office is to be a single point of contact for agencies working to end homelessness and providing emergency services. The new office will also connect people experiencing homelessness with services in their communities. Advocates are hopeful that state staff at the new office will facilitate the smooth and efficient collection and reporting of data essential for accessing state and federal funding. The office will also play an important role in sharing best practices and providing technical assistance.
Staffed by existing AHFC officials, the Statewide Homeless Housing Office requires no new funding from the state budget. The office will be administered in a manner similar to AHFC’s Senior Housing Office, which addresses the housing needs of aging Alaskans. The reorganization of AHFC staff and priorities is celebrated as a way to bring results without costing money in an extremely restrictive budget environment.
“We are delighted to see a state agency devote specific staff time and expertise to the needs of organizations working to provide supportive housing throughout Alaska,” said Brian Wilson, executive director at AKCH2. “This is one more step forward in developing the necessary tools to ending homelessness in our state.”