Brother Francis shelter receives $750,000 grant for homelessness prevention, facility upgrades

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has awarded a $750,000 grant to the Brother Francis Shelter in Kodiak, which will be used for facility upgrades and homelessness prevention efforts by the shelter.

The Kodiak shelter was one of several selected to split a total of $5 million dollars statewide

Jennifer Smerud, a planner with the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, or AHFC, says she was impressed by all of the applications.

“It was a really competitive process. We had 13 really great applications come in. Everybody scored really high, great ideas from across the state,” Smerud said.

Smerud says that funding programs like this are crucial right now.

“We’re also facing a unique experience where there’s so many people who have never been on the brink of homelessness before never experienced, like the economic instability that they’re experiencing right now,” Smerud said.

“And so we’ve got a lot of people that are really nervous and needing that prevention funding. And so we’re trying to get as much of that out into the communities as we can, as well so that we prevent people from going through the process of an eviction and all the trauma…that surrounds that.”

The grant comes from the Emergency Solutions Grants program, established by Congress in 1987. The program specifically provides grants to aid homeless prevention efforts and emergency shelters. The Emergency Solution Grant got some extra funds to distribute this year, after President Trump signed the CARES Act in March.

The AHFC, a public corporation, is charged with distributing Emergency Solutions Grants funding in Alaska except for Anchorage, which has its own allocation.

For Monte Hawver, executive director of the Brother Francis Shelter in Kodiak, the grant money comes at a time of great need.

“They’ve been coming in. As soon as the unemployment, the Federal unemployment ran out. It wasn’t long before people started coming in,” Hawver said.

“And there’s several things that are exacerbating this and that is with a moratorium on evictions, which is great, people don’t get evicted. But unfortunately, that runs out in December. And so you’re going to have a, you know, an upwelling of, of evictions, you know, at that point in time, or people that would be evicted, except for we’ll step– step in and help them from becoming evicted.”

Hawver also says the money will be used to upgrade the ventilation system, which is important during this pandemic.

“I’ve never really been that happy with the ventilation in the shelter,” Hawver said. And, of course with this COVID nightmare, we know more than we used to about it. And one of the things that we know is that proper ventilation is essential for minimizing the possibility of it. And our goal since March has been- we’ve worked very, very hard to keep COVID from getting into the shelter.”

New windows will be part of the facelift.

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