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Anchorage using stimulus funds to fight homelessness

A string of four homeless deaths in 10 days this month. Dramatically rising numbers of Anchorage families doubling up in cramped apartments. More people in shelters. More children with no home to call their own.

Officials say the homeless problem in Anchorage is big and growing and they are directing $775,000 in federal stimulus money to do something about it. The city is hiring a full-time coordinator to address homelessness, and four private agencies are getting funding to hire a worker each, acting Mayor Matt Claman announced on Wednesday.

In January 2008, 2,199 Anchorage residents were homeless, according to city and state calculations. This January, the number had jumped to 2,962.

"I recognize the number of deaths in the camps and basically finding bodies in the parks is unusual," Claman said. But as evidenced by the growing numbers, "homelessness is not unusual," he said. In Anchorage, it's "a very, very serious problem."

Much of the increase shows up in one subgroup: people staying with families or friends. Last year, 998 Anchorage adults and children were doubling up. This year, it's 1,612. Many are children and parents packed into someone else's apartment or cramped home.

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