Legislature(2011 - 2012)BUTROVICH 205

03/10/2011 09:30 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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09:32:38 AM Start
09:34:23 AM Hearing: Homelessness Among Veterans
10:14:07 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Moved Out 3/8/11>
Hearing on Homelessness Among Veterans
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 10, 2011                                                                                         
                           9:32 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Bill Wielechowski, Chair                                                                                                
Senator Joe Paskvan, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Kevin Meyer                                                                                                             
Senator Catherine Giessel                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Albert Kookesh                                                                                                          
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 7                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to the civil rights of felons."                                                                                
     - MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE on 3/8/11                                                                                         
HEARING ON HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS                                                                                          
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
RICK DAVIDGE, Chairman                                                                                                          
Alaska Veterans Foundation                                                                                                      
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented commentary on homelessness among                                                                
TREVOR STORRS, Co-chair                                                                                                         
Anchorage Coalition on Homelessness                                                                                             
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented commentary on homelessness among                                                                
SUSAN BOMALASKI, Executive Director                                                                                             
Catholic Social Services                                                                                                        
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION  STATEMENT: Presented  commentary on  homelessness among                                                             
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:32:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR BILL WIELECHOWSKI called the  Senate State Affairs Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 9:32  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order   were  Senators   Giessel,  Paskvan,   Meyer,  and   Chair                                                               
^Hearing: homelessness among veterans                                                                                           
                  Homelessness Among Veterans                                                                               
9:34:23 AM                                                                                                                    
Chair Wielechowski  announced the committee would  hold a hearing                                                               
on  homelessness  among  veterans. Presenters  will  discuss  the                                                               
challenges of meeting the needs of homeless veterans in Alaska.                                                                 
RICK DAVIDGE,  Chairman, Alaska  Veterans Foundation  (AVF), said                                                               
it is time to  look at what role the state  should play in ending                                                               
homelessness among veterans in Alaska.  The Secretary of Veterans                                                               
Affairs  and  the  President  last   year  launched  a  five-year                                                               
initiative to  end homelessness for veterans.  This could provide                                                               
an opportunity for  the state to leverage some  federal funds. He                                                               
said he had given committee  members an outline of key questions;                                                               
the  number of  homeless  veterans in  Alaska  is uncertain,  but                                                               
there are probably  80 to 100 in the Anchorage  area at any given                                                               
The  Department  of  Veterans  Affairs  reports  that  about  600                                                               
homeless veterans live  in Alaska, but this number is  based on a                                                               
formula,  not on  actual information.  Anchorage has  the largest                                                               
homeless population in the state.  The mayor's leadership team is                                                               
looking at  the overall  problem. The  federal, state,  and local                                                               
governments spend billions  of dollars each year  trying to solve                                                               
the homeless problem. Governments have  done a pretty good job of                                                               
building  transitional  housing.  The majorities  of  people  who                                                               
become  homeless receive  services, get  out of  the system,  and                                                               
don't come back. About 20  percent become the chronic homeless. A                                                               
large number of veterans are in that group.                                                                                     
9:38:46 AM                                                                                                                    
Of the  homeless deaths in  Anchorage in  the last two  years, 25                                                               
percent were  veterans, yet veterans  only make up  eight percent                                                               
of  the  overall  population. Professionals  say  that  the  high                                                               
numbers of homeless  veterans are due to  mental health problems,                                                               
such  as  post-traumatic  stress and  traumatic  brain  injuries,                                                               
combined  with the  tendency to  self medicate  in order  to deal                                                               
with pain. This leads to chronic alcohol or drug use.                                                                           
The  Domiciliary  is  a  VA   transitional  housing  program  and                                                               
treatment center. They  do a very good job  and have dramatically                                                               
improved  their success  rate in  Anchorage over  the last  three                                                               
years. Clients  can spend  as long  as a  year in  their program.                                                               
After they finish the program, many  are still unable to care for                                                               
themselves and  end up  coming back three  or four  months later.                                                               
This is  why the  AVF is  putting forward the  idea of  long term                                                               
supportive housing. Long term supportive  housing is very simple.                                                               
It is a place  that is warm and safe which  provides some kind of                                                               
structured  assistance,   with  nationally   accredited  Veterans                                                               
Service Officers on site.                                                                                                       
One proposal in  the AVF's package, called  "VetCity," deals with                                                               
a group  of 28 cabins located  on property that AVF  is trying to                                                               
acquire. There is no limit on  how long clients can stay but they                                                               
do  have to  work and  make  a contribution  to the  cost of  the                                                               
facilities. Housing  First is just getting  started in Anchorage.                                                               
This is  the most effective way  to get the chronic  homeless off                                                               
the  streets  and  begin  to   provide  services  for  them.  The                                                               
combination  of  a  Housing  First type  program  and  long  term                                                               
supportive housing would create an  effective way to get homeless                                                               
veterans off the street.                                                                                                        
Many say the issue of homeless  veterans is a federal problem. If                                                               
a veteran  has a service  connected disability that is  true. But                                                               
mental  disabilities are  not  always  immediately evident.  Many                                                               
veterans  have problems  with post  traumatic  stress, and  still                                                               
have  difficulty  accessing services  from  the  VA. Mr.  Davidge                                                               
asked, "What  is the  role of  the state?"  The state  could help                                                               
fill the funding gap for the VetCity and Housing First projects.                                                                
9:44:19 AM                                                                                                                    
TREVOR  STORRS, Co-chair,  Anchorage  Coalition on  Homelessness,                                                               
said  that  Housing First  and  VetCity  are two  very  important                                                               
projects.  Project Homeless  Connect  serves  about 650-700  each                                                               
year;  approximately  15  percent   of  them  are  veterans.  The                                                               
veterans fall  into two groups: chronic  inebriates, and families                                                               
who  have  veteran  status.  In  the  area  of  chronic  homeless                                                               
inebriates,  the number  one national  best  practice is  Housing                                                               
First. It  is not  about drinking  or not  drinking. It  is about                                                               
housing. People can't address their  substance abuse issues until                                                               
they have  housing. It  has been hugely  successful in  the lower                                                               
48. Alaska  is part of  the U.S. and we  are very much  the same.                                                               
Housing First  can be successful  here. AHFC is a  big component,                                                               
but they need more dollars.                                                                                                     
Families  are  the  second  part.  Many  of  the  armed  services                                                               
families use the  food bank and other social  services even while                                                               
they  are  in  the  service. After  leaving  the  military  these                                                               
families often end up homeless.  Because they have been stationed                                                               
far from home,  they don't have families to double  up with. Many                                                               
access  shelter   programs.  The  state  needs   more  affordable                                                               
housing. The  cost of  living is  a huge  factor. In  Anchorage a                                                               
person needs to  make just under $19 an hour,  working 40 hours a                                                               
week, to  afford a  two bedroom apartment.  Unless they  have two                                                               
earners, low wage families are  barely making it. Most low-income                                                               
veteran families  struggle and are  unable to access  or maintain                                                               
any type of housing.                                                                                                            
Providing affordable  housing is the  biggest role the  state can                                                               
play.  Capital project  funding and  helping to  build affordable                                                               
housing  would  provide  employment   in  the  state.  Affordable                                                               
housing reduces crime, increases  school attendance, and improves                                                               
the overall health of the community.                                                                                            
9:49:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Another thing the state could do  is create a voucher program for                                                               
housing subsidies; however, a voucher  is not helpful if there is                                                               
no housing available.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  GIESSEL  asked  what  the recidivism  rate  is  for  the                                                               
MR. DAVIDGE  replied they  tried to  get that  figure but  the VA                                                               
doesn't keep numbers. For the  most part, supportive services are                                                               
provided  by the  VA.  Facilities are  the  biggest problem,  not                                                               
SENATOR PASKVAN  asked what  the number  of homeless  veterans in                                                               
Anchorage is,  and do we  have the  numbers for other  regions of                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
9:52:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SUSAN  BOMALASKI, Executive  Director, Catholic  Social Services,                                                               
said there  are high numbers  of veterans at the  Brother Francis                                                               
shelter.  Last year  524  of  the 3,100  clients  at the  Brother                                                               
Francis  Shelter were  veterans.  Many of  them  are working  but                                                               
can't  move  out  because they  can't  find  affordable  housing.                                                               
Anchorage has  the highest percentage  of veterans per  capita in                                                               
Alaska. In  2009 the Point  in Time  Count showed there  were 259                                                               
homeless veterans  in Anchorage.  The Alaska  Homeless Management                                                               
Information System  reports 450 individuals, and  42 veteran head                                                               
of  household families.  Information  from AHFC  shows the  total                                                               
number of  very low income veterans  is 285 families who  live in                                                               
public housing or have a voucher.                                                                                               
Another 313  families are  at risk  of homelessness  because they                                                               
can't get  a voucher.  According to  the 2009  American Community                                                               
Survey, there are  1,353 veteran family members  in Alaska living                                                               
below the  poverty line and  at risk  of homelessness due  to the                                                               
lack  of affordable  housing. Supportive  services are  available                                                               
for veterans, but not for their family members.                                                                                 
9:56:05 AM                                                                                                                    
Catholic Social  Services has  recently applied  for a  new grant                                                               
which will  to help  to serve veteran  families with  children as                                                               
well as individual  veterans. Long term permanent  housing is the                                                               
top  unmet need.  In terms  of  what the  state can  do to  help,                                                               
affordable housing is at the  top of the list. Supportive housing                                                               
for  individual  veterans  is  important;  augmenting  supportive                                                               
services are  also essential. Catholic Social  Services has asked                                                               
for  two  case  managers  to manage  50  families.  This  program                                                               
provides rental  subsidies for only  6 months; then  the families                                                               
will be on  their own. One-on-one case  management and supportive                                                               
services is the key to success for these families.                                                                              
SENATOR  PASKVAN asked  about the  numbers  of homeless  veterans                                                               
statewide, and what regions they are in.                                                                                        
10:00:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  DAVIDGE  said  there are  varying  definitions  of  homeless                                                               
veterans.  The AVF  is struggling  to define  who and  where they                                                               
are. This  is something the  state could  help with, in  terms of                                                               
predevelopment work for housing  projects. Many times the numbers                                                               
are run by formulas instead  of actual counts. The rescue Mission                                                               
in Fairbanks is very active in looking at this problem.                                                                         
In the VA  program, there is a HUD voucher  program which is only                                                               
available  to  veterans.  There  are also  grants  which  pay  65                                                               
percent of the cost of construction.  This is a way of leveraging                                                               
state   strategy  to   bring  in   federal  dollars.   Nationally                                                               
Accredited  Veterans'  Service  Officers  can  help  veterans  to                                                               
access  services and  benefits and  steer them  towards available                                                               
social services.                                                                                                                
10:03:05 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR PASKVAN said he is  trying to understand the magnitude of                                                               
the homeless veteran problem on a state-wide basis.                                                                             
MS. BOMALASKI answered there 259  homeless vets in all of Alaska,                                                               
and 145  in Anchorage. That was  from the Point in  Time count in                                                               
2010.   So  Anchorage   has  over   half  the   homeless  veteran                                                               
MR. DAVIDGE noted when AVF members  go to the homeless camps they                                                               
find  many homeless  veterans  who have  come  to Anchorage  from                                                               
other parts of the state hoping to receive services.                                                                            
10:05:39 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI  said  his  staff will  try  to  obtain  more                                                               
statewide data.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR GIESSEL asked if the  presenters had any cost figures for                                                               
a homeless  veteran in Anchorage,  and what the savings  would be                                                               
if that person was in a Housing First type program.                                                                             
MR.  STORRS said  there  is no  formal study  in  Alaska, but  in                                                               
Seattle  the costs  range from  $100,000-$150,000 per  person per                                                               
year  if they  are  chronically homeless.  In  the Housing  First                                                               
project, the cost is $25,000-$30,000.  The state doesn't actually                                                               
start  seeing money,  but the  resources  don't have  to grow  as                                                               
quickly.  Social services  can be  focused in  other areas.  This                                                               
slows  growth in  spending. Emergency  rooms aren't  flooded; the                                                               
police have more time; people  access better support services and                                                               
start giving  back to the  community. Some  are able to  pay back                                                               
restitution. All of this leads to a healthier community.                                                                        
10:09:05 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GIESSEL  said she understands that  Anchorage City Church                                                               
is a partner  with the city of Anchorage. She  noted the increase                                                               
in the  number of single  mothers who are homeless  veterans, and                                                               
asked if the church is housing them.                                                                                            
MS. BOMALASKI responded City Church  has launched its program for                                                               
single mothers  (called Beacon Hill) and  it is full. She  is not                                                               
sure how many  are veterans, but she could find  out. City Church                                                               
is  also  helping  with  the  emergency  cold  weather  plan  for                                                               
homeless families with  children. She said she  would get numbers                                                               
for the committee.                                                                                                              
MR.  DAVIDGE  said  a  growing  number  of  female  veterans  are                                                               
becoming  divorced  within  18  months  of  separation  from  the                                                               
service; this is accelerating the homeless problem.                                                                             
MS. BOMALASKI  responded the new supportive  service for families                                                               
grant would help.                                                                                                               
10:10:59 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR   WIELECHOWSKI  asked   what  two   or  three   things  the                                                               
legislature or  the state could  do this  year to help  solve the                                                               
veteran homeless problem.                                                                                                       
MR.  DAVIDGE  replied  there  is   currently  an  opportunity  to                                                               
leverage  state   funding  with  federal  funding.   The  AVF  is                                                               
encouraging the  state to  step forward. AVF  has put  together a                                                               
$300,000 pre-development study which develops  in full all of the                                                               
needed facilities  in the  Anchorage area. This  sets up  a five-                                                               
year financial  sustainability plan which enables  the facilities                                                               
to  be built  and maintained.  There is  a lot  of federal  money                                                               
available right now for the needs  of veterans. If the state will                                                               
participate as  a partner,  veterans' organizations  can leverage                                                               
other grants.                                                                                                                   
MR.  STORRS noted  in addition  to the  project described  by Mr.                                                               
Davidge, the  state can  look at  how to  better utilize  AHFC to                                                               
help. The state takes  a lot of money from AHFC  and puts it into                                                               
the general fund. The state  needs to promote developers building                                                               
affordable housing, and AHFC can help with that.                                                                                
MS. BOMALASKI  said with  the two percent  vacancy rate  and high                                                               
wages  required  for  fair  market   rent,  there  is  almost  no                                                               
affordable  housing available.  She also  mentioned the  need for                                                               
supportive services.                                                                                                            
10:14:07 AM                                                                                                                   
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Wielechowski  adjourned the  Senate State  Affairs Standing                                                               
Committee meeting at 10:14 a.m.                                                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Homeless Vets - Program brochure update 2011.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
2-26-11 Point in Time Count ANCH.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
5thHomelessAssessmentReport.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Homeless Vets - FOOD FOR THOUGHT.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Conceptual Cabin Layouts 1-3-11 (2).pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Homeless Vets - NCHV Homeless Issues and Solutions for new vets.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
National Report on Ending Homelessness for America's Veterans.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Homeless Vets -Vet City Complex 21590.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Homeless Vets - Muni CSP Data thru 2009.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing
Homeless Vets - 1-25-11 new proposal, ANCH Pjt funding request to Congess.pdf SSTA 3/10/2011 9:30:00 AM
Homeless Veterans Hearing