marco polo images Mayors walk from North Pole to Fairbanks for youth homelessness
FAIRBANKS With the remaining days of summer numbered and winter on the horizon, three Interior mayors spent their Saturday walking from North Pole to Fairbanks to bring awareness to youth homelessness.
The three mayors Fairbanks Mayor John Eberhart, Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel and North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward were joined by friends and family on their march from downtown North Pole, along Badger Road and into Fairbanks.
This walk, the first of its kind, was done in coordination with and as a fundraiser for Fairbanks Youth Advocates, which runs The Door, a shelter where youths, 12 to 18 years old, can stay and be provided beds, regular meals, clothing and supplies.
One of the important things to remember, each mayor said, is that homelessness isn’t only a big city problem, but one that affects people everywhere and comes in many forms.
“This is a Fairbanks problem and an every community in the nation problem,” Eberhart said. “Homelessness takes different forms, some are couch surfing, some are sleeping in cars and some are staying at churches.”
Altough the main goal of all the mayors was to bring greater awareness to the often difficult to recognize issue of youth homelessness, Eberhart said the city is submitting a grant application to create a new position that would oversee homelessness challenges in Fairbanks, similar to a position recently created in Anchorage.
Marylee Bates, the executive director of Fairbanks Youth Advocates, said it’s also nearly impossible to get an accurate count of the number of homeless youths in Fairbanks. She said some are homeless with families, forced out of their homes or, in many cases, have left home because their homes are no longer safe.
The Door houses about a hundred youths throughout the year and helps more with drop in services, such as meals and clothing, she said.
The 14 mile walk ended at The Door on 10th Street in downtown Fairbanks, where they helped kick off Fairbanks Youth Advocates’ annual fundraiser One Homeless Night, a campout event where supporters spend a night outside.
Kassel planned to join in the overnight stay.
“Kids have enough challenges, they don’t need to deal with not having a place to live,” he said. “It not only affects their short term life, but their long term life. . If we can nip it in the bud and get it resolved for them, it can mean huge, huge differences.”
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