A spokesman for a Homer nonprofit acknowledged a program providing transportation to people in need, but denied the organization is “dumping” homeless and transient people in Kodiak.
The Homer Community Food Pantry has served Homer for over 25 years. Homer is about 150 miles north of Kodiak on the Kenai Peninsula.
In addition to serving as a food pantry, the organization provides emergency services, according to representative Doug Dodd.
One of those emergency services is transportation for anyone stranded in Homer. Sometimes this requires filling a gas tank. Other times it requires a bus or ferry ticket, Dodd said.
“If someone has ties somewhere, we will try to help them get back there if that’s what we need to do,” he said.
The Brother Francis Shelter in Kodiak provides similar services to people who need to get somewhere off-island, said shelter director Monte Hawver.
Many of those seeking this service in Homer need transportation to Anchorage, but some are heading to Kodiak Island, according to Dodd.
He said the organization has paid for about five people to come to Kodiak this year. One hoped to reconnect with family here, another told Dodd he lives in Kodiak and had no way to return after his boat broke down. Others came seeking employment, including one who had just received a welding certificate and sought a job in the trade.
Dodd said the pantry has provided this service for many years, and only recently received complaints from Kodiak.
Hawver said the recent uproar is likely due to an abnormally high number of people loitering downtown, but he believes most of them are not homeless.
He speculated that a recent lull in salmon fishing was likely the cause, as fishermen wait between fishing trips. Many boats left on Monday, and Hawver drove downtown to find most people gone on Wednesday.
Hawver is not aware that any of the five sent from Homer have stayed in Brother Francis Shelter, but said the shelter commonly serves people who come to Kodiak seeking work that they may not find.
Following the complaints, Dodd said he plans to take the additional step of contacting Kodiak law enforcement before providing anyone transportation to Kodiak.
“We have a long history and we want to be very responsible in what we do,” he said.