Project Homeless Connect volunteers help Arlene Jasky, center, pick out hats and gloves for a friend during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Project Homeless Connect volunteers help Arlene Jasky, center, pick out hats and gloves for a friend during a Project Homeless Connect event at the Sterling Senior Citizens Center in Sterling, Alaska on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Fund established to combat peninsula homelessneess

An anonymous donor reached out to the Kenai Peninsula Foundation wanting to formally establish a fund.

A central fund for people looking to help combat homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula is now being offered through the Kenai Peninsula Foundation following interest from an anonymous donor.

Project Homeless Connect media liaison Jodi Stuart announced the fund, called the “Central Kenai Peninsula Help for the Homeless Fund,” during her presentation to the Soldotna City Council during their Wednesday night meeting.

Stuart, who is a longtime planner of the organization’s yearly outreach event, said Wednesday that an anonymous donor reached out to the Kenai Peninsula Foundation wanting to formally establish a Field of Interest Fund to help the peninsula’s homeless community.

“This is huge news for us,” Stuart said.

Stuart said that they hope the fund can become sustainable and help fund the acquisition of a permanent homeless shelter.

Though the services provided by Project Homeless Connect were impacted by COVID mitigation protocols, Stuart said the group was still able to distribute food, information on housing and substance abuse disorder and shower and laundry services, among others, during this year’s outreach event, which took place from the end of January into early February.

The event’s 10th anniversary took place earlier this year in a modified format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of having a central location where people went on a single day, resources were spread out across different locations on the peninsula across multiple days.

Stuart said there was a significant drop in the number of people who participated in Project Homeless Connect’s 2021 event, which she thinks was due to resources being spread out across multiple locations. She reported that many of those contacted through Project Homeless Connect are staying with friends or family and that their primary reason for homelessness was due to a loss of income, eviction, divorce or death. More than 60% of participants were first-time attendees.

Primary needs reported among people surveyed included housing, employment and clothing, while secondary needs included rental assistance, medical care and education. 91% said they would use an emergency cold weather shelter if one existed.

Several council members thanked the people who spoke for their efforts to end homelessness on the peninsula.

Council member Dave Carey said he hopes that the city can continue to provide financial support to those efforts, and said he would like to know to which projects received funds would be dedicated.

“I thank you very much for all that you do,” Carey said.

The council’s full meeting can be viewed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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