The Brother Francis Shelter has received a $752,000 grant to help families who are facing eviction from their housing due to temporary financial hardships. 

The grant money will also be used to upgrade the shelter’s ventilation system, bathrooms and entryway, and to provide new laundry and sanitation equipment. 

The shelter runs a Rapid Rehousing Program for people at risk of becoming homeless, which is set to increase in importance as the federal government’s temporary halt on evictions due to COVID-19 ends in December.

Monte Hawver, the executive director of Brother Francis Shelter, said the grant money will not be used to pay staff or run the organization, but it will allow the shelter to help people for the longer term. 

Many people who owe months of back rent and other fees, which will need to be paid at the start of the new year, have already started requesting help from the program. 

“Kodiak has seen a steady increase in demand for prevention services, and we believe the need will only grow,” Hawver said in a press release. “We estimate that this grant will enable us to help 60 households with prevention/placement services.”

The shelter is one of seven recipients of funding from a $5 million grant from the Emergency Solutions Grants COVID Prevention Program, which was awarded to the state for communities outside of Anchorage. Anchorage will receive its own allocation of ESG money. 

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, which aims to provide people in the state with safe, quality and affordable housing, is administering the grants. 

“As winter sets in and temperatures drop, it is critical for AHFC to be able to support nonprofits that provide essential housing services to keep at-risk Alaskans and those impacted by loss of income due to COVID-19 safe and warm,” said Bryan Butcher, AHFC’s CEO and executive director. 

Hawver attributed the increasing need in Kodiak to fewer fishing opportunities, as well as an increase in layoffs due to the temporary closure of businesses during the pandemic.  

“I’ve helped more families in the last four weeks that are coming in with four to five times more back rent than they have had in the past,” he said, noting that with pandemic unemployment insurance also ending at the end of December, he expects the need to drastically increase. 

Hawver said the shelter has been applying for grants for the past 20 years, but past funding has been significantly lower, allowing the shelter to help with short-term needs such as one month’s rent, utilities or a deposit. The strategy has worked well, and provides what people often need to help them during a crisis. 

He said the new grant will allow the program to offer more financial help to each individual for longer periods of time.  

He noted, however, that grants of this size come with a maze of conditions and eligibility requirements, meaning not everyone will be eligible. 

“The housing has to be up to federal standards and the families have to meet standards, so it can be problematic. This is four times as much we are handling with the same staff,” Hawver said.  

Despite the extra funds, Hawver will still need to raise $100,000 in the next several weeks to continue to run the shelter and pay for items such as blankets, towels, cleaning supplies and food.

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