Program offers housing assistance in Mat-Su

The twists and turns of everyday life can sometimes take a toll on families and individuals residing in the Mat-Su Valley, unexpectedly and through no fault of their own. Just paying the bills to keep utilities on and prevent eviction can become a serious challenge at times. But there is a program in the Valley that can provide financial housing assistance during those low times.

Since 2012, the primary purpose of Valley Charities, Inc. (VCI's) Housing Assistance Program (HAP) has been to help folks remain in housing. In other words, to prevent homelessness. This program led to an awareness of grants that would help people re-enter from situations such as incarceration, as well as grants to help families transition slowly into sustainable, independent housing arrangements.

Valley Charities, Inc. provides financial/rent assistance to individuals and families that meet the required grant criteria. Details on eligibility can be found on the website, http://www.valleycharities.org, or by calling 907-354-4660. A short voice message from the caller briefly explaining their basic need-eviction prevention, behind on utility bills or rent payments, or something else – is then screened by VCI's case worker. Most grants funnel in from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), so income requirements are part of the screening process. Applicants at 30% of the median household income (which is considered below the poverty level), depending on how many people are in the family, may then be eligible for assistance with their utility bills, first month's rent getting into a new home, or other benefits.

HAP does not provide housing. The program does provide financial assistance to help folks get over the immediate 'bump in the road' and get back on a sustainable path on their own. The HAP case manager is a strong information resource and referral advocate for all sorts of helpful governmental programs and partnerships and can point folks in the right direction for help with a wide range of needs.

Valley Charities, Inc. has established a great relationship with AHFC over time by demonstrating its ability to provide funding responsibly, which has put VCI in a position to take on additional grants and projects, even assisting people statewide. As another offshoot of the program, VCI began helping with prisoner re-entry. The history and importance of VCI's Re-Entry Assistance Program is closely tied to the Housing Assistance Program and will be the topic of a future article in this publication.

Partnering, processing and referrals for results

Adam Pollock is VCI's case manager for HAP. He has been on board for many years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to help answer any questions applicants may have. Pollock has worked hard over the years to streamline the process of applying for assistance with three main concepts:

Partnering with six other nonprofit agencies in the Mat-Su, each with different specialties, services, and expertise, and in different locations, in order to cover residents across the entire Valley, from Chickaloon and Sutton on one end through Trapper Creek on the other. These partner agencies are Family Promise Mat-Su, Blood & Fire Ministries, Daybreak, Inc., Salvation Army, Alaska Family Services, and MY House.

Initial screenings to determine eligibility are done over the phone, avoiding the necessity of an extra trip to complete preliminary paperwork. When eligibility has been confirmed, an in-person appointment can be made with full knowledge of additional documents needed. This procedure achieves greater convenience and efficiency for all involved.

Application completion is done in-person at the office of the participating agency, where experienced case workers provide individualized help with appropriate terminology on the required forms.

Over the years, Dave Rose, former Mat-Su Coalition on Housing and Homelessness coordinator, and Adam Pollock, an army veteran, have established an excellent relationship with local property managers and landlords, a critical piece of the puzzle in the success of this program. It brings forth an element of trust, cooperation and communication needed to work through the details of each individual circumstance and situation.

If the applicant does not qualify for the program, the folks at HAP do all they can to assist in problem-

solving or identifying other agencies and resources that may be beneficial to the client's specific needs, and which they may not even be aware of. In addition to the six specific partner agencies mentioned above, other informal program partners include veterans programs, public assistance, senior programs, churches, and many others. This enables what is known as a 'warm handoff', where one agency can see a need they may not be able to fill but can refer a client to a partner agency that can do so.

Randi Perlman is the interim executive director for Valley Charities, Inc. a nonprofit organization that has been serving the Mat-Su Borough for over 60 years. For more information, visit http://www.valleycharities.org or call 907-376-5740.

 
 
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