State’s high cost of living makes financial hardships common on peninsula

As a community we are identifying the best ways to support and increase family well-being. When families get the support they need and are resilient, they can flourish and the result is a healthier community overall.

So what are some of the factors that foster resiliency? 

A key resiliency factor for all families is to have stability. Important forms of stability include adequate income and housing and a stable living environment. 

Hard times hit many of us — at different times and in different ways. When this occurs, both our stability and resiliency can be weakened. Experiencing a lack of stability and the related relationship, mental health, and family function stresses it can bring is one of the most significant strains on family well-being. 

Financial hardships are common here in Alaska and in our community. According to the July 2014 Alaska Economic Trends report, Alaska ranks as the fourth most expensive state to live. The high cost of living adds extra stress to southern Kenai Peninsula families, 24.7 percent of which have annual incomes below $24,999 (American Community Survey averages 2007-2011). 

On the southern Kenai Peninsula, the average household income ($59,799) is less than the state average ($86,208) and national average($73,034). Data collected for our recent Community Health Assessment reflects that 38.8 percent of southern Kenai Peninsula mortgage-owned households and 48 percent of renter households pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing, and thus meet the definition of “cost burdened” (American Community Survey averages 2007-2011).  It is not surprising that Economic Health ranked as the highest health concern for individuals and families in the 2013 MAPP community surveys. 

Factors that play into an individual or family experiencing financial or other hardships can be complex and challenging to untangle. One simple way that our community comes forward every year to help families most in need is through “Share the Spirit,” a collaborative, well-coordinated effort that provides food and gift baskets for those who most need it during the holidays. In its 22nd year, Share the Spirit’s 2014 goal is to provide baskets to 200 families. The simple act of having food or gifts provided for the holidays greatly contributes to one’s sense of stability during what could normally be an even more stressful time. One easy thing that we can do this holiday season that contributes to family stability is to participate in, volunteer for, or give to Share the Spirit.

Many individuals and organizations come together every year to make Share the Spirit a success. The food drive collaborating organizations include: Safeway, Save-U-More and Kachemak Wholesale. The gift tree collaborating organizations include: AK USA Credit Union, First National Bank, Homer Book Store, Homer’s Jeans, Kachemak Gear Shed, Timeless Toys, Total Office Products, Ulmer’s, and Wells Fargo Bank. Additional collaboration comes from the Anchor Point and Homer food pantries, American Legion, Anchor Point VFW, Homer Public Health Center, and the Salvation Army. We are fortunate to have so many generous organizations in this town. 

The applications for those in need will be available at many local human service agencies and area churches through Friday, Dec. 12. Monetary donations can be dropped off at Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to “Share the Spirit” at P.O. Box 3218, Homer AK. 

What are you doing that supports family stability?  Connecting with Share the Spirit doesn’t just help individuals and families, it makes our community a better place to live overall. If you want more information or want to volunteer, please call the Share the Spirit information line at 235-7466.  

Megan Murphy is the MAPP coordinator and can be reached at 235-0570 or


• Adopt-A-Family forms are available in the front entrance area of  Wells Fargo Bank. This program  allows you to anonymously sponsor a needy household in our community.

• “Gift Trees” have begun appearing at local merchants. This is a fun way to get involved by purchasing gifts for those less fortunate.

• Applications for needy households are available through many local human services agencies and local churches. The deadline for applications is Dec. 12.

• The Share the Spirit Spaghetti Feed will be Dec. 9. Lunch and dinner will be served at the Homer Elks Lodge on Jenny Way. To-go orders may be placed now by calling 235-7466; questions about Share the Spirit may be left at the same number.

• Basket Packing and Gift Wrap Day will be Dec. 19 the work begins at 8 a.m. and continues until it’s finished at the Commons at Homer High School. Or, those with covered vehicles and strong backs are welcome to meet at Safeway at 6:30 a.m. to transport supplies.