ANCHORAGE, AK--(Marketwire -10/20/11)- Of the 6,460 homeless people counted statewide by all the service providers this year, more than half lived in Anchorage, 11 percent have chronic substance abuse issues, and six percent are veterans, according to the Alaska Homeless Management Information System (AKHMIS), the state's first centralized database that stores information like this so staff can monitor and respond to changes and developments among the homeless population.
The "point-in-time" count also provides data about the characteristics of those who stay in homeless facilities throughout the year. Data can be queried by a user to count homeless populations according to different criteria and to monitor changes in these numbers. Standard and customized reports can be generated, and depending on the complexity of the request, data is output almost immediately.
HMIS projects are mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide Congress with unduplicated information to help congressional members better understand the extent of homelessness nationwide and make better informed funding decisions to target the most critical areas of need. In Alaska, the system is operated by the Municipality of Anchorage and funded with grants from HUD and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC).
Historically, most national data on people who are homeless has been anecdotal and there has been little evidence to back up information or provide insight into why the population continues to increase. Participating emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, and permanent supportive housing programs contribute client-level information throughout the year to help community coalitions and public officials assess the dynamic situation and develop strategies to mitigate the problem.
"Collecting timely, accurate data about the homeless population is the first step toward addressing this serious statewide problem," Dan Fauske, AHFC's Executive Director and Chair of the Alaska Coalition of Homelessness said. "Understanding the size and scope of the homeless community, including the special subpopulations such as veterans, seniors and youth helps service providers and agencies more efficiently serve those experiencing homelessness. By monitoring trends over time, programs and priorities can be adjusted to possibly prevent this problem."
"I applaud AHFC's efforts to obtain accurate and timely information about our homeless population statewide," said Mayor Dan Sullivan. "It is critical that we first identify who these people are before we can find ways to help them. I also look forward to continue working with AHFC on building more affordable housing in Anchorage so that every citizen has a place to call home."
Alaska's homeless population ranked 10th per capita nationally in 2008, with about 25 percent relying on emergency or temporary shelters in lieu of a regular, adequate nighttime residence. In 2009, Alaska adopted its "Ten-Year Plan to End Long-Term Homelessness" and has since been removed from the top 10 ranking.
AHFC is a self-supporting public corporation with offices in 16 communities statewide. It provides statewide financing for multi-family complexes, congregate facilities, and single-family homes, with special loan options for low- to moderate-income borrowers, veterans, teachers, health care professionals, and those living in rural areas of the state.
AHFC also provides energy and weatherization programs, low-income rental assistance in 17 communities, and special programs for the homeless and those seeking to become self-sufficient. AHFC has contributed more than $1.9 billion to Alaska's state budget revenues through cash transfers, capital projects and debt-service payments.