ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska Catholic organization announced plans to house at least 300 more homeless families after receiving $5 million from a fund backed by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos, organization officials said.
Catholic Social Services in Anchorage was the only nonprofit organization in Alaska to be awarded the one-time grant from The Day 1 Families Fund this year, and one of 32 organizations nationwide, officials said.
“This grant will make an enormous impact on our community by expanding the work Catholic Social Services does every day to support families in homelessness to transition to permanent stability,” Executive Director Lisa Aquino said in a news release, according to KTVA-TV.
As of Thursday, a list by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness said there were 92 homeless families in Anchorage, including 322 people, most of them children, Aquino said.
The grant would be used to expand the rehousing program and launch a new pilot program helping families before they potentially move into shelters, she said.
Catholic Social Services was founded in 1966 and provides multiple services in Anchorage, including running Brother Francis Shelter, the city’s largest overnight shelter, and Clare House, a shelter for women and children, officials said.
The announcement comes as Alaska organizations made a five-year pledge to invest $40 million to combat homelessness, officials said.
“Solving homelessness in Anchorage, Alaska, is something that can be done,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said Friday.
The fund launched in 2018 with a $2 billion commitment from Bezos and his now ex-wife to provide annual awards to organizations working to help families facing homelessness, officials said. Its two branches focus on grants for programs dealing with homeless families and preschools in under-served communities, officials said.
Last week is was also announced Bezos will donate $5 million to help create housing for homeless families in Spokane.
The Spokesman-Review says Bezos will donate the money to Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.
Most of it is destined for the planned Gonzaga Family Haven complex in northeast Spokane, which is intended to provide housing and social services for more than 70 families.
The project is a partnership among Catholic Charities, Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Prep High School, which is located next to the planned complex.
Officials say the grant is not enough to fund the entire project, but it will allow better services than originally planned.
Spokane is grappling with major homelessness issues, especially in the downtown core.
Crux staff contributed to this report.
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