Fairbanks nonprofits struggle to preserve vital services through citywide closures

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The coronavirus outbreak has created difficulties for local nonprofits to provide needed services to the homeless population in Fairbanks.

The Fairbanks Community Food Bank and other nonprofits have seen a decline in donations. (Photo courtesy of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank)

Mike Sanders, the Housing and Homeless Coordinator in Fairbanks, said the Fairbanks Rescue Mission (FRM) is running low on personal protective equipment necessary for screening. “They’re running out of masks, they’re running out of gloves, because they’re just not used to this volume of precautions. Of course they’ve all got orders in for more masks, but there’s a nationwide shortage,” Sanders said.

However, FRM does currently have enough space for those seeking shelter. With a capacity of 174, they serve around 80 people per night, which means they are still able to follow social distancing guidelines.

As many public buildings, including the Fairbanks Transit Center, City Hall and the Noel Wien Library have closed, options for public restrooms have grown fewer. Three nonprofits in town now have restroom facilities for the homeless population to use: Stone Soup Café, the Fairbanks Rescue Mission and the No Limits Warming Center.

The Warming Center has expanded their services to 7 days a week, and allow 10 people into their building at a time to accommodate high demand. This has created a need for more volunteers.

Sanders has also seen a substantial drop in donations to local nonprofits. “We suspect that that’s because right now people are concentrating on their own safety. They’re worried about what’s happening with their families,” Sanders said.

The Fairbanks Community Food Bank has also announced that they are in desperate need of donations, with more food currently flowing out than coming into their building at the moment. They specified that they particularly need canned proteins like chicken and fish.

According to Sanders, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is looking at ways for people who may be hurt financially by social distancing measures to stay in their homes. “We’re expecting that after a week or two of reduced hours and people being laid off that we’re going to have a big spike in people needing services,” he said.

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