Homelessness in Sitka, a place traditionally called Sheet’ka by its indigenous Língit inhabitants, is new.
In fact, the Língit people don’t have a word for homelessness. “It just isn’t a concept if you have a collectivist culture that’s built on respect,” says Sitka Tribe of Alaska Employee Doug Osborne.
In a 2018 interview on Sitka’s Raven Radio, Executive Director of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness Brian Wilson shared, “If you look at the Alaska numbers, they calculated that an individual would have to make $24.80 an hour in order to afford a fair-market, two-bedroom rental,” he said. “And this is problematic because . . . in Sitka, 44% of our households here are rentals and the average renter is only making $13.96 an hour.” That was in 2018. Since then, housing in Alaska has only become more challenging as inflation has increased nationwide.
Homelessness in Alaska has persisted as a pressing issue over the years, driven by a combination of factors including the high cost of living and limited access to affordable housing. Residents of the 49th state are hit particularly hard considering that Alaska ranks amongst the highest in the nation for cost of living and food and healthcare costs. In fact, in 2023, average rent prices rose a record 7% in a single year. Rural communities, such as Sitka, face unique challenges due to their remoteness and often inadequate or nonexistent infrastructure to address the issue.
Such was the case when the Sitka Homeless Coalition was formed in 2017. The years since have seen a rise in overall awareness of the need for both long and short-term housing following Housing First principles.
“Housing First is a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life.” — The National Alliance to End Homelessness
Since the Homeless Coalition was formed, housing the unsheltered in Sitka, Alaska has gone from merely an idea to a soon-to-be-completed community of cabins called the Hitx’i Saani (Little Houses) Project that will provide warm, safe shelter to those in need.
Sitka Homeless Coalition Executive Director Andrew Hinton says, “To me, a resilient Sitka means a community where safety, empathy, and inclusivity thrive. It’s a place where people support one another and where basic rights to health, safety, and housing are guaranteed."
"In this community, we actively work together to promote the welfare of our neighbors and ensure the creation of an environment where the basic rights of all our community members are met.”
Sitka Seafood Market supports Sitka Homeless Coalition’s work to end homelessness in Sitka with support from our members through our 1% For the Wild Fund.