Alaska Natives comprise approximately 85 percent of the homeless population in Alaska, most of whom live in Anchorage. This community—and it is a community—is not hard to find, if you know how to look. Many live in or around the “triangle” formed by Brother Francis Shelter, Beans Café, and the Anchorage Jail.
In an effort to reduce the alarming homelessness rate in Anchorage, Samuel Johns, an Athabascan hip-hop artist and community advocate, took an unconventional approach and established the Forget Me Not (FMN) Facebook group in June 2015. The group’s primary purpose: connecting the homeless of Anchorage with their families in Rural Alaska. This was the first time an Alaska Native had used social media to engage other Alaskans to help eradicate homelessness, while humanizing the men and women on the streets of Anchorage.
Within four weeks, the group grew to more than 7,500 members, and Samuel was able to reconnect a homeless person with their family in the Bush. Surprised by the explosive success of the group, Sam reached out to four other Alaskan community advocates to establish the first steering committee. In August, the Steering Committee filed nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the State of Alaska.
Johns and the FMN Facebook page have already made statewide and national news. ABC Alaska conducted an interview with him, articles were written in the ADN and the Indian Country Media Network, and the LA Times contacted Johns to produce an article of their own.
Here is a link to the ADN story: http://www.adn.com/article/20150621/facebook-group-helps-rural-alaska-families-track-down-homeless-relatives
In a very short time, the FMN group has experienced tremendous growth. At our core, we are a grassroots, Alaska Native-led organization trying to help our community. The Awesome Foundation grant will play a crucial role in continuing our street-level impact, as FMN transitions into a more formal and sustainable organization.
Funded by Alaska (August 2015)