Point of View: Join us to discuss housing solutions in the greater Homer area

When I began my role with the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation, I was eager to get to know the community and better understand what people felt was their priority for community health. For those of you who I had the fortune of chatting with, I may have asked you: “What is preventing us from being healthier as a community?”

I don’t think it would surprise you to hear the responses I heard. These responses have informed much of the work the Hospital Foundation has been a part of with many of our partners in the area, including after school programming, child care and transportation. By far, however, the single greatest barrier to community health that is on everyone’s mind is housing and our shortage of options.

I spoke with people who have walked away from job offers because of a lack of housing, employers who shorten their hours for staffing needs related to it. There are highly paid organizational leaders in town who are unable to find a place to even rent in their price range. This is made even more difficult for those who are making minimum wage. Dry cabins have been listed for over $1,500 per month and the average price of a purchased home has risen 250% since 2015.

There is no other way to view this than as a crisis for our community. So what can we do about it? My background is certainly not in development, nor did I have a solid understanding of housing in general. In the process of these conversations, however, I came across so many knowledgeable folks who understood many of the barriers and were full of ideas about how we could move forward. What became clear is that there were so many people, organizations, and resources available, but often isolated in silos, something many of us can recognize in our own fields.

There were many groups in our area showing leadership and initiative to empower everyone with the tools of growth and as we started to find each other, the circle of collaboration grew. As the organizing group coalesced, a clear directive emerged: How do we hear from the community and bring folks together to share resources and ensure that as the Homer area grows, it grows into precisely what people desire and need to live healthily?

Now organizing alongside the City of Homer, the MAPP coalition, the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District (KPEDD), Choosing Our Roots, South Peninsula Hospital Foundation, and others, we are collectively hosting an event and we need your help.

On Saturday, March 25, at the Christian Community Church, the Community Conversation: Housing Solutions in the Greater Homer Area will begin at 9:30 a.m. and go until 12:30 p.m. This event is focused around sharing our experiences, clearly defining barriers to housing, brainstorming housing solutions and creating a map of how we can get to those solutions as a community. Everyone is welcome, and we anticipate this is the first of many steps, so please get involved at the ground level and help build with us.

One thing has become clear to all of us organizers — this is a highly complex, systemic issue, and there is no single solution that will solve our dilemma. Instead, we will need to better understand the many aspects and remember that only by working together across our community can we best plan for the future.

Please join us on March 25 at 9:30 a.m. and come find ideas, resources, as well as snacks and drinks. This event will be highly interactive and professionally facilitated by Denali Daniels + Associates. For more information and to take the community survey in advance of the event, please go to: https://ddaalaska.com/homer-housing-solutions/

Jeffrey Eide is director of the South Peninsula Hospital Foundation and can be contacted at jeide@sphosp.org.