Calls for basic needs continue to rise
Referrals to Southwest Alaska residents for assistance with food and other basic needs rose in the first half of 2012, according to Alaska 2-1-1, the statewide help referral line. From January through June, referrals for basic needs – food, housing, transportation, and household goods and clothing – jumped to 45 percent of all Southwest referrals. In 2011, basic needs referrals accounted for only 30 percent of all referrals.
Southwest includes the Aleutians, Bristol Bay, Bethel and Lake & Peninsula Borough. Referrals the first six months for housing, food, and household goods are on track to be double the numbers from 2011.
The entire support system for helping people in need is not keeping up with demand, according to Michele Brown, President of United Way of Anchorage, which operates Alaska 2-1-1 on behalf of Alaska United Ways.
“Increasingly since 2009, we’ve seen more Alaskans – working people higher on the income scale than ever before – struggling to make ends meet. People who didn’t need help before need it now,” she said. “The biggest message I take from the 2-1-1 data is that many people have not been able to dig out financially. Demand on the system is unremitting and it’s taking its toll on people and systems.”
Social service agencies statewide will get help in meeting at least some of the demand, thanks to a $1 million safety net grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. The funds will be distributed statewide based on population. The first round of grant funds was issued Sept. 14.
Statewide, referrals for basic needs have remained about the same, around 30 percent of all Alaska 2-1-1 referrals. Of those basic needs, housing still constitutes the lion’s share, at 50 percent. However, food referrals have increased over previous years as a percentage of the basic needs referrals. As a percentage of basic referrals calls, food has climbed from 23 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in2011 and now 34 percent in the first half of 2012.
Alaska 2-1-1 connects Alaskans statewide to a wide range of community, health, and human services. All calls are confidential. Alaska 2-1-1 is operated by United Way of Anchorage on behalf of Alaska United Ways. Visit www.alaska211.org for information.