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FAIRBANKS, ALASKA-The Tanana Chiefs Conference is one step closer to providing actual living facilities to the homeless in the Fairbanks area. Funding was recently secured from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation in the amount of $1.8 million.
The TCC voted in March to pursue the purchase of the 62,000 square foot Westmark/Best Western Hotel on South Cushman for the program. The current owner of the 102 room property is Fountainhead Development.
According to Jeff Jesse, the CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust, the facility will use as its model, the same set-up as the facilities used stateside that have had wide-spread success. In those facilities, a system called “Housing First” is used, where housing is provided without the prerequisite that the person quit drinking first.
This approach has had great success in the lower 48. It helps change the living condition of chronic alcoholics before beginning to treat the alcoholism itself. There is no rule saying that the recipient of the housing has to quit drinking, but even so, many do reduce their consumption and some even quit drinking altogether in this setting.
While drinking is allowed in the facility, inappropriate behavior isn’t. The rules to stay there are comparable to apartment building rules. Behavior that infringes on the other tenants won’t be allowed and such behavior puts the tenant at risk of being booted from the program.
This first in Alaska program is being assembled and ran by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, but participants in the program do not have to have tribal affiliations in order to take part. The rent in the facility will be subsidized, with 30% of the rent to be paid by the participant. 47 rooms in this facility will be set aside for this purpose. The remainder of the rooms in the hotel building are to be used as short-term housing for village residents in the surrounding areas coming to Fairbanks for medical care.
Eligibility requirements for housing at the facility are still under discussion. The consortium of interior tribes hopes to have the facility in operation by December of this year. A public meeting to discuss the planned facility is scheduled for tonight, Monday, August 22nd, at 7 o’clock at the Fairbanks Community Behavioral Health building at 3830 South Cushman St.