Bezos charity awards grant to Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness

A worker lays out mats in an ice rink under bright flood lights.
Bean’s Cafe employee Ruth Free lays out mats on a Ben Boeke ice rink after the municipality of Anchorage designated it as an emergency homeless shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

A fund set up by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos recently awarded the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness a grant of $450,000. Bezos launched the Day 1 Families Fund in 2018 with a commitment of $2 billion and a mission to support organizations across the country that are working to solve homelessness among families with children. 

Jasmine Boyle, executive director of the coalition, said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a wave of “new homelessness”  — people who were living paycheck to paycheck who lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent or mortgage.

“What we’re also seeing is a rise in homelessness for families that have dependent children,” she said. “It’s families of all types, families that never expected to be in this situation. What we have to remember is the disruption for our kids has long term impacts.”

Boyle said the grant money will be used to fund rapid rehousing for families that have become homeless and services to help families navigate the benefits system. It will also fund a subsidy program to provide small, one-time cash grants to help families with unforeseen expenses who might otherwise be pushed back into homelessness. 

The federal eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of December and Boyle fears more Anchorage families will soon be without housing. Shelters are already at capacity and service providers have had to house families in hotels.

“The challenge is we don’t have enough affordable housing. We didn’t have enough affordable housing prior to COVID,” she said. “We certainly don’t see any booming construction for more affordable housing in Anchorage’s immediate future.”

Boyle hopes the grant money will help fill gaps in the city’s support system. A small part will go to the Coalition to manage the grant, and the rest will go to individual organizations providing social services in Anchorage. Boyle expects distribution of the money will start in early 2021.