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Federal Cuts Could Slow Anchorage Vagrant Youth Outreach

Published On: Dec 24 2013 11:50:35 AM AKST   Updated On: Nov 12 2013 08:55:28 AM AKST

Street outreach workers that try to help Anchorage's at-risk youth are afraid they may need to cut their programs because of the loss of $200,000 in federal funds.

The loss of funding stems from budget sequestration. 

Covenant House Alaska and the Alaska Youth Advocates believe the cuts could put at-risk youth in even more danger.

Becca Shier, an outreach case manager for Alaska Youth Advocates, said the help they provide goes a long way.

She described her day-to-day job: "Asking them how their weekend was, what they are up to today, if they have a safe place to sleep at night," Shier said.

Bandi Kriger, a peer outreach worker, said she agrees. "They are people we know and we know their stories and they come and check with us all the time," she said. 

Relationship building is key because the youth they interact with often suffered some type of traumatic event.

"They have a lot of negative influences, and we really need to be there to help build those relationships and build those trust that has been broken down in their lives for so long," said Heather Harris, executive director for Alaska Youth Advocates. 

That is part of the reason outreach teams have been around for two decades. 

But with a loss of federal funding, officials believe the fight will be tougher because there will be less outreach. 

"As time goes on we will see those youth end up in the juvenile justice and then into the adult systems," Harris said.  

To help fill the gap in funds for the street outreach program, both organizations are working to build new partnerships.

The Municipality of Anchorage, United Way, Alaska Mental Health Trust and Alyeska Pipeline are all on board. 

The plan is to figure out a long-term option to keep the workers out on the streets helping teens.