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Tshibaka highlights Interior Alaska’s need for mental health, homeless resources

October 21, 2021

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Alaska Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka highlighted the serious need for resources for people battling mental health and homelessness during a trip this week through Interior Alaska. Tshibaka toured the Fairbanks Rescue Mission with its chief executive officer, Pete Kelly, to learn more about what services they offer and what resources their clients require.

“Mental health and homelessness are issues that affect our entire state, ” Tshibaka said. “We don’t have enough resources for people. And when you don’t have a place to go, you live on the street. My parents were homeless for a while, and so in my own family, we are aware of what challenges people face. We have to address this.”

The Fairbanks Rescue Mission is the only overnight emergency shelter in Interior Alaska, an area the size of Texas, and it serves the City of Fairbanks and the entire Fairbanks North Star Borough community. The facility is unique in that it serves homeless men, women, and children, and provides hot meals, shelter, clothing, and a work training program. Those who spend more than 30 days are required to choose a transitional program to help them overcome their personal circumstances and return to self-sufficiency.

While the Fairbanks Rescue Mission does not rely significantly on federal funding, other shelters and programs in Alaska do. Tshibaka said that as senator, she would support federal funding for such programs and work to ensure that the money goes to benefiting vulnerable Alaskans, and not to the operation of the state government agencies that often disseminate the funds.

“I played ice hockey for a long time, and we always had 12 players on the ice and two referees. We didn’t always love the refs, but they served a purpose and kept the game fair and moving along,” Tshibaka said. “The refs represent the role of government. But now, we don’t have two referees, we’ve got 200 of them. And they’re carrying hockey sticks and touching the puck. We need someone in government to get all those referees off the ice so the people can do what they need to do.”

Tshibaka charged that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s voting record has placed services to vulnerable Alaskans in extreme jeopardy. Murkowski has voted for federal legislation similar to an Anchorage ordinance that would force women-only shelters to admit biological men, which threatens the safety of the women seeking help.

“This can easily traumatize women who have already been through severe trauma and anxiety, place them at physical risk, and discourage them from seeking assistance in such places, ultimately leaving them more vulnerable. Providing a women-only shelter isn’t discrimination; it’s desperation,” Tshibaka said. “Every woman deserves to sleep safely at night.”

Murkowski also was the only Republican senator to vote to confirm Vanita Gupta as President Joe Biden’s anti-police nominee for the number three job at the Department of Justice. Just a year before her confirmation, Gupta testified before the Senate and urged obedience to the “Defund the Police” movement’s demand to cut law enforcement funding and roll back public safety efforts at the state and local level.

“The reduction in public safety resources favored by Gupta, confirmed by Murkowski’s deciding vote, would make Alaskan women even more vulnerable to violence, with less law enforcement to separate themselves from their attackers, real and potential,” Tshibaka said. “And where would abused women go? With Murkowski’s policies fully intact, a woman with abuse in her past would have no choice but to go sleep side-by-side next to a male stranger.”

Born and raised in Alaska, Tshibaka has spent her career exposing fraud and abuse in government and served as Commissioner of Administration from January 2019 until she stepped down to run for the Senate. Tshibaka’s father was a union electrician and Vietnam War veteran, and her mother was one of the first workers at the startup of Prudhoe Bay. Her parents were homeless and living under a tarp at one point, but fought their way into the working class.

Tshibaka graduated from Steller Secondary School in Anchorage and was the first in her family to pursue a college degree, beginning her studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage before graduating from college and law school. Prior to serving in Alaska government, she saved American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in her work in Offices of the Inspector General for several federal agencies, including for two years in the Trump Administration.