Does Cordova have a homelessness problem?

New program seeks to provide shelter while measuring scale of housing problem

Cordova, Alaska. (Sept. 7, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

A program organized by Cordova health care and social service providers is connecting homeless individuals with temporary housing. Organized by Cordova Community Medical Center and Cordova Family Resource Center, the Cordova Safe Housing Program will provide shelter for up to two weeks while a case manager assists in developing a plan to obtain sustainable longer-term housing.

Although anecdotal evidence suggests Cordova has a housing problem, hard data on the issue is scarce. The Cordova Safe Housing Program may help change that, said Barb Jewell, behavioral health program manager for CCMC’s Sound Alternatives health clinic.

“From my standpoint, if there’s even one homeless person in Cordova, that’s a problem,” Jewell said. “As a community, we really don’t want that to happen.”

The program may provide housing at local hotels, apartment buildings or churches. The shelter provided by the program is not considered emergency housing, as Cordova Safe Housing Program services are not available 24/7. The program’s services are not available to applicants under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or to individual applicants with a condition preventing them from living safely by themselves, organizers said. However, applicants need not actually be sleeping outdoors to qualify for assistance.

“People often define ‘homeless’ as sleeping on the street, or under a bridge, but homelessness also covers people who are couch-surfing, if they don’t have a fixed place to stay,” Jewell said.

The Cordova Safe Housing Program is funded in part by an Alaska Department of Health and Social Services grant of roughly $26,000, co-authored by Jewell and CFRC Executive Director Nicole Songer. A commitment by the Cordova Community Foundation to supply matching funds to the project helped strengthen the program’s DHSS grant application, Jewell said. The grant is expected to fund up to 14 days of shelter for up to 25 individuals or families.

Although the DHSS grant funds the program for one year, it can be re-applied to for a longer period. Organizers are hopeful that, once the Cordova Safe Housing Program has been running for a year, they’ll have gathered enough information about the prevalence of homelessness in Cordova to leverage more funding.

Other community partners supporting the program include Prince William Sound Motel, Raven Lady Enterprises, Cordova’s Episcopal Church and Church of the Nazarene, the city of Cordova and the Cordova School District. For more information on the Cordova Safe Housing Program, or to apply for its services, contact Sound Alternatives at 907-424-8300 or CFRC at 907-424-5674.