Head Start, Weatherization, AmeriCorps and Supportive Housing continue to be the largest programs. The agency saw tremendous growth from US government stimulus funds and weatherization funds from the State of Alaska. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided access to new revenue to RurAL CAP. In 2014, the agency operated on $42.9 million, which included $33.9 million for nonprofit services and $9 million for REE. The agency is leveling back down to pre-stimulus and weatherization funds budget levels. In 2013, the agency purchased the central office building in Anchorage.
During 2013, internet bandwidth increased in 13 rural Head Start centers as a result of GCI’s TERRA Project. The project developed a land-based fiber optic and microwave network that provides high speed data service to the communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. It provided better communication with Anchorage staff and stable video conferencing. Computer and audio equipment was installed in 14 Head Start sites to enable live web streaming from the classroom into the central office in Anchorage. This technology allows a real-time connection with classrooms for observations and appropriate follow-up and guidance with rural site staff.
New Child Development Center
A new Child Development Center in Anchorage was purchased in 2012. The Center provides full-day, year-round care for children between ages 19 months to five years. A Head Start classroom was recently added. The 8,000 square foot facility allowed RurAL CAP to expand child care services in the Anchorage community. The Center has an open enrollment policy with a sliding tuition scale to benefit low-income families.
Alaska’s housing needs are significant. According to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation 2014 Housing Assessment, more than 15,000 homes are overcrowded and nearly 20,000 homes use large amounts of energy. While the specific causes of overcrowding, high housing costs and substandard homes are often intertwined and location specific, energy efficiency retrofits and housing affordability programs can help alleviate these challenges. In 2011, RurAL CAP began managing the Municipality of Anchorage Weatherization program boosting the number of weatherized homes. Between 2012 and 2013, 2,378 homes were weatherized statewide.
In 2011, the Growing Up Tobacco Free (GUTF) project was formed to create a healthier environment for Head Start children in 23 Head Start communities by promoting tobacco cessation through education, awareness of risks and encouragement of becoming healthy, tobacco-free role models. RurAL CAP received funding in 2012 from the Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice to provide small grants to implement cultural activities and youth leadership to benefit Alaska Native youth. The Alaska Native Youth Success Resource Basket is providing training, technical assistance and support to Alaska Native tribes to increase youth success and reduce juvenile delinquency. The Elder Mentor Program was launched in 2014 to help improve children’s success. Mentors provide one-on-one help with school work, model social and cultural values, and offer emotional support to children. The services are provided through the national Foster Grandparent Senior Corps Program.
The Supportive Housing Program is an innovative and proven solution to some of communities’ toughest problems. It combines affordable housing with services that help people who face the most complex challenges to live with stability, autonomy and dignity. Karluk Manor was the inaugural Housing First facility in Alaska and opened in December 2011. It serves 46 individuals who experience homelessness, serious mental illness, substance use disorder and chronic medical problems.
Safe Harbor in Anchorage provides transitional housing for homeless families and children with the goal of moving them to permanent housing within six months of entry. Currently, 50 transitional housing units are available. Adjacent to Safe Harbor, RurAL CAP is building 23 units of permanent housing with onsite child care, a common area for residents, staff office space, a playground with picnic settings, and landscaping incorporated into the design.
Sitka Place in Anchorage provides 56 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals experiencing mental and physical disabilities. The program helps individuals move to economic independence by addressing the frequent interrelated problems of homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, and mental illness, and increases access to affordable housing for low-income individuals. There are currently 176 units of Permanent Supportive Housing in Anchorage with 23 more units pending.