Lisa Aquino Opinion

The recent state budget cuts have proven difficult for local non-profits. The good news is that we’re still here.

Because of your support, smart management with our reserves, and swift and prudent action by our board, Catholic Social Services programs are open and effectively providing basic needs services and permanent stability to the most vulnerable among us.

This journey has not been easy. We were forced to prepare for the worst possible scenario and began the painful process to reduce staff and downsize programs. In CSS fashion, we never gave up advocacy for critical homelessness services. With the invaluable support of our community, we made some headway.

Much of the funding for homelessness services was restored in the final state budget, but this still left a 20% cut. Through the declaration of a civil emergency, the municipality released enough funding to operate Brother Francis Shelter at full capacity through FY20. Donor dollars and private contributions continue to fund more than 80% of our shelter operations. You make sheltering vulnerable people in homelessness possible in Anchorage.

We are working to regain an operational level of service and rehired housing case managers at 80%. We are still cautious because state funds have not yet been received, but, for today, there is limited disruption in services. Clare House did close during the day briefly in August but is now running around the clock thanks to incredible volunteer efforts. When Clare House faced closure, we received more than 380 volunteer applications to keep services open! Volunteers aren’t a permanent solution, but this allows us to stay open while we work to identify long-term strategies. We are humbled and honored by this generosity. Volunteers opened Clare House more than 35 years ago, and some of those same volunteers came back to help us keep the doors open during the day.

We are thankful our voices were heard about the necessity of homelessness services in our community. Unfortunately, we have every reason to believe funds may be cut again next year. This causes huge disruptions to programs, but we have worked hard to minimize this and will continue to do so. We stand by our commitment to provide basic needs services to the most vulnerable people in our community, and we are rebuilding long-term, sustainable strategies to accomplish this. Even through the latest setbacks, your support has enabled us to shelter and/or house thousands of Alaskans in FY19. Thank you to the staff, volunteers, partners and donors who rally every day to offer people a ladder up and into permanent stability. We simply couldn’t do this without you.

Sincerely,
Lisa Aquino, CEO

2 comments on “We’re Still Here”

  1. 1
    Greg Cerbana on November 25, 2019

    Very proud to partner with CSS on our Path to Independence program and happy to call Lisa a friend. Thanks for all you’re doing to help make lives better

  2. 2
    Lisa on November 26, 2019

    Thank you Greg! So honored and happy to call you a friend and so grateful for the vision and support of Weidner!!

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