Project Homeless Connect organizers provide services on Jan. 23, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska, during the annual outreach event. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Clarion file)

Project Homeless Connect organizers provide services on Jan. 23, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska, during the annual outreach event. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Clarion file)

Soldotna works to connect homelessness groups to funding

More than 250 grant opportunities were evaluated before the final selections were made.

The City of Soldotna is working to connect local organizations that address homelessness on the central Kenai Peninsula with funding opportunities.

That’s according to a grant funding strategy report contracted by Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki, which outlines six grant opportunities determined to be worth the time and effort of local organizations looking to combat homelessness on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen wrote in a report to the city council that it is not the city’s intent to apply for the grants or lead planning efforts, but rather to connect local organizations, such as the Kenai Peninsula Continuum of Care, with the funding opportunities. The Kenai Peninsula Continuum of Care is a regional planning body that coordinates housing for homeless populations.

In preparing the grant strategy, more than 250 grant opportunities were evaluated before the final selections were made based on how well they aligned with the program, funding history and award size.

“Our consultant individually contacted many funding agencies directly, to gauge the competitiveness of their program and interest in our community’s project,” Queen wrote.

The six grant opportunities described in the document are those the city’s grant specialist determined were the most likely to fit the needs of the region’s homeless population and for which she was able to identify associated milestones and action items.

For example, a grant offered through the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority offers up to $50,000 and funds projects that align with their mission of “improving the lives of Alaskans” who live with mental illness, substance use disorders or developmental disabilities, among other conditions.

“This grant program aligns with a Strategic Planning Project to address homelessness and housing instability on the Kenai Peninsula due to the high majority of individuals served by the project being Trust beneficiaries,” the fund strategy says. “We believe the Letter of Intent process is worth our limited resources to pursue and has a high likelihood of leading to an invitation to apply for this funding.”

The preparation of a grant funding strategy is just one way people are working to address homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula. A central fund for people looking to help combat homelessness on the peninsula was established earlier this year through the Kenai Peninsula Foundation.

The fund was announced by Jodi Stuart, a media liaison for Project Homeless Connect, during a presentation to the Soldotna City Council in April. Project Homeless Connect is an annual event that aims to connect the peninsula’s homeless population with services in the area. In addition to offering resources, the event is an opportunity for Project Homeless Connect to collect data.

For example, the needs reported among people surveyed during this year’s event included housing, employment and clothing, while secondary needs included rental assistance, medical care and education.

Stuart said during her April presentation that she hopes the fund can be used to acquire a permanent homeless shelter for the community. Of people surveyed during this year’s Project Homeless Connect, 91% said they would use an emergency cold weather shelter if one existed.

The full grant funding strategy can be found on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

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

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