Local non-profit is “gearing up” for winter months ahead
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - For the homeless population in Interior Alaska, basic needs could be the difference between life and death during the cold winter months.
People who are categorized as homeless are individuals that are living on the streets or moving between temporary shelters, whether that be the houses of friends, family, or in emergency situations.
Roscoe Britton is the Program Director for local non-profit No Limits in Fairbanks.
Britton says No Limits started out “many moons ago” in Anchorage as a prisoner re-entry program.
“In fact it was the first and only prisoner re-entry program in the State of Alaska,” says Britton.
He said prisoner re-entry was really big (back then) in the United States and in Anchorage, it was the first program, then others followed.
“So we kind of were the model program for that,” he added.
He works with individuals within a re-entry program to help transition those out of incarceration and back into the community. He also works alongside other agencies around Fairbanks to help those experiencing homelessness, by providing food, a place to warm up, and other resources.
“A lot of people think a person is homeless because they want to be and that’s not the case. A person is homeless because there are outlying issues that have never been taken care of, whether it is mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and they just don’t want to be a part of anything anymore. They just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, ”says Britton.
In 2013, Fairbanks was thinking about having a prisoner re-entry coalition, so the program he was working with came up to Fairbanks to help other agencies talk about prisoner re-entry.
“So we kind of helped start out the re-entry coalition,” he said.
Then in 2014 No Limits Anchorage came to Fairbanks to start a prisoner re-entry program in the Interior and they are still at it.
He says the whole idea is to get an individual “set up” and to create a foundation with support.
“Let’s say ID’s, social security cards, if they can get Medicaid, food stamps all of that stuff so that way they can become a little bit viable and they feel a little bit good about themselves,” says Britton. “We noticed there was a problem within homelessness; a lot of individuals will come and get warm, come and eat but they won’t talk to you. It takes a lot of time to build up trust with individuals that are in that type of situation.” he added.
No Limits has worked to form multiple programs to help alleviate the housing needs in the community.
“So we have the prisoner re-entry program which is our primary, we are about housing as well, we have a transitional housing program; we have opioid recovery housing. We have permanent housing as well,” said Britton.
He explained that the housing situation in Fairbanks has been an obstacle for those trying to get back on their feet. With the influx of military and their dependents coming into the community alongside the high cost of living, it has made it difficult for those that are low-income to no income to find affordable accommodations.
Britton said Alaska Behavioral Health is getting ready to open up a residential program that is going to be able to help some individuals that have mental health issues, and a lot of the homeless individuals in Fairbanks struggle with adversities such as mental health, substance abuse, and or as he says “co-occurring problems.”
He also stated that Fairbanks has the highest population of homeless Alaska Natives and Veterans.
“Alaska and Fairbanks, number one in the nation for homeless vets. I really don’t understand it, especially here in Fairbanks. I am a veteran myself and there are some programs out there to help, but to me, there is just no way Fairbanks, Alaska should be number one in homeless vets when a majority of this community is made up of veterans,” said Britton.
One idea he and others thought would help the homeless population in the community, would be to open up a warming center. Three years later the warming center in Fairbanks is still offering those same services to the community in need and they are getting ready to open a second warming station on October 15.
“Individuals that come here to the warming center enough times start to feel a little bit more comfortable around people. Now they open up and that is what we really need is for them to open up. We can ask them, how can we best help you? How can we help you get out of where you are at and get you into housing? It has worked out really good and it has allowed other agencies to participate as well,” said Britton.
With the winter months ahead he says there is a need for organizations such as this to be able to equip those in need. Donations such as winter gear like hats, gloves, snow gear really is important because of the climate we live in. He says because of circumstances some individuals are not able to utilize the Mission in Fairbanks and end up walking around town in the night just to stay warm.
“Often times they are in tennis shoes that have holes in them and it is just sad to see. We have had individuals that will come to us after walking around all night long and all they have had on their feet are plastic bags, so those kind of donations are always welcome,” he said.
He also stated those who have been out all night like to enjoy warm coffee so that too is always appreciated.
Added understanding how homelessness effects the community has ripple effects on the changes that are being made and it takes a community to come together.
“ We are all just one paycheck away, one accident away, one surgery away from maybe not being able to pay bills and rent and could become an individual of homelessness,” Britton said.
For those who are interested in learning more about the local non-profit, No Limits, Britton says all those who are interested, can come to the office located at 253 Romans Way located in Fairbanks or by calling (907) 451-9650.
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