Alaska state budget vetoes cut homeless shelters, services

Anchorage homeless shelters and services are bracing for cutbacks and closures after Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced about $400 million in line-item state budget vetoes Friday.  

The Brother Francis Shelter, an emergency shelter for adult men and women, will have to reduce its capacity from 240 to approximately 100 people, according to Catholic Social Services. The Clare House, Catholic Social Services’ emergency shelter for women with children and expectant mothers, may have to close during the day. Safe Harbor Muldoon, a transitional housing facility sheltering dozens of families facing homelessness, faces closure. So does Sitka Place, a supportive housing facility serving homeless people with serious mental illnesses, according to Patrick Anderson, CEO of RuralCap, the statewide nonprofit operating both Sitka Place and Safe Harbor Muldoon. 

“That’s devastating,” he said. 

As of Friday evening, Anderson said his organization was still assessing the full impact of the governor’s vetos. So were other shelters and social service organizations around Anchorage. Lisa Aquino, executive director of Catholic Social Services, said the nonprofit had relied on more than $1.3 million in vetoed state funding. She said its board of directors plans to hold an emergency meeting this week to determine the next steps. One thing was immediately clear, she said.

“It’ll be devastating,” Aquino said. “And it will have big financial implications for so many in the community.”

Statewide, homeless shelters and housing services received funding through four grant programs: the Homeless Assistance Program, the Special Needs Housing Grant, the Human Services Community Matching Grant and the Community Initiative Matching Grant Program. The governor’s recent vetoes sharply reduced the first two programs and zeroed out the latter two.

“The State’s fiscal reality dictates a reduction in expenditures across all agencies,” read the fiscal note for the cuts.

Jasmine Khan, executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, said overall state funding for homelessness services fell from approximately $13.7 million to about $2.6 million. The money funded 50 programs around the state and at least five shelters in Anchorage, Khan said. Ending the programs would have an immediate negative effect on homelessness in Anchorage, she said. The extent has yet to be realized.

“If anything shuts down, we will see more people on the streets,” Khan said.