by Shawn Rivera
The Municipality of Anchorage recently completed its Point-in-Time count which is an annual count of sheltered (staying in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing) and unsheltered homeless persons in the city on a single night. In 2015, 101 households and 371 residents were identified as being homeless, with 242 (65%) of these being youth under the age of 18. In addition to facing other challenges, that's 242 children in our community who are at an immediate academic disadvantage.
While the graduation rate in Anchorage has climbed to over 80% over the past decade, the graduation rate is presumably much lower for children who experience homelessness. Some reasons for this include increased absenteeism, an increased likelihood for them to have lower test scores, and having difficulty focusing in school because they are hungry or unsure where they are going to sleep.
It doesn't have to be this way. And you can help.
On February 20, 2016, United Way of Anchorage will be hosting its 6th Annual Run & Walk for Warmth which is the only community event that raises money specifically to help cover rent and utility bills when families need it most - the coldest months of the year. When a family calls 2-1-1 in need of rent or utility assistance, 2-1-1 refers them to Lutheran Social Services, who disburses the funds quickly and efficiently on behalf of United Way of Anchorage to families in need.
Since 2011, Run & Walk for Warmth has helped over 262 households with rent and utilities. This year, United Way of Anchorage hopes to raise $53,500 to continue this work to support families.
In addition to being a fun and family-friendly event, Run & Walk for Warmth provides an opportunity for you to directly help our neighbors and build a strong, healthy community for those who walk by us every day. With your help, we can ensure Anchorage families can make ends meet, stay warm, housed, and fed, and continue to save money and stay on their feet.
Runners, walkers, and other supporters will meet at First United Methodist Church as early as 9:00 AM on February 20. A warm up will be hosted by Anchorage Yoga and PiYo Steve and Tammy, and coffee and a secure coat/bag check will also be available. At 10:00 AM, Skinny Raven will escort runners and walkers to the start line. After the run and walk, coffee, water, and food from A Casual Encounter Catering Company will be provided. There will also be prizes for top male and female finishers, highest individual and team fundraiser, and other miscellaneous prizes from generous local businesses.
Visit United Way of Anchorage's website to be inspired about the impact Run & Walk for Warmth had on one local woman, and then please consider registering or donating to take part in this year's event and invite your friends and family to do the same so we reach our goal of $53,500!