Story last updated at 10/2/2012 - 1:10 pm
Southeast Alaskans are still struggling to meet their families' basic needs, according to data from Alaska 2-1-1, the statewide help referral line. For the first six months of 2012, 34 percent of all referrals to residents of Southeast Alaska were for basic needs, which include food, housing, transportation, and household goods and clothing.
The comparable figure was 33 percent in both 2011 and 2010. In the same vein, the total number of referrals in Southeast is on par to match 2011. In this case, holding steady isn't a good thing, according to Michele Brown, president of United Way of Anchorage, which operates Alaska 2-1-1 on behalf of Alaska United Ways.
The entire support system for helping people in need is not keeping up with demand, she said.
"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.
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, food has climbed from 23 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2011 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. Please visit www.alaska211.org.