Abused, abandoned, and alone, many homeless women in Anchorage, Alaska feel like they don’t matter. They need somewhere to turn. Somewhere to feel safe. Someone to let them know they are loved.
Many of these women are victims. They’ve faced unspeakable trauma including domestic violence, sexual assault, or even human trafficking. But often, the only option is a co-ed shelter where they feel even more unsafe in the presence of men. In fact, many of these women would rather sleep in the woods under cardboard in the frigid Alaskan temperatures than next to a man.
It’s easy for someone in this situation to feel like an outcast—like they don’t matter and are not loved.
This is why the Downtown Hope Center exists. Written on the windows are the words: “You matter. You are loved.”
The Hope Center is a Christian non-profit organization that offers daily meals, clothing, laundry and shower services, and job skills training for the homeless men and women in Anchorage – all free of charge. It also offers a free overnight shelter for women – many of whom are trying to recover from abusive situations and even sex trafficking.
At the Hope Center, these women can find not only a warm meal and a bed, but also a safe place, a women’s-only shelter, where they can sleep completely at ease. This is the Gospel in action. The Hope Center shows Christ’s love to those who need it most.
But now, the existence of the Hope Center’s overnight shelter is at risk. The government is threatening to shut down this vital ministry all because it will not allow biological men to sleep in the same space as these women.
After an incident in January, the Anchorage Human Rights Commission began investigating the Hope Center when a man who identifies as a woman sought access to the women’s shelter. This individual came to the Hope Center intoxicated and injured, so the shelter sent him to the hospital to get the care he needed, even paying for his taxi to get there. Yet, because the Hope Center did not admit him to its women’s shelter, where he would have slept three to five feet from abused women, Anchorage came after it.
The Commission is now twisting a law to try to force the Hope Center to admit biological men into its women’s shelter.
Many of these women already feel like they don’t matter. And now the City of Anchorage is valuing its political agenda over the privacy and safety concerns of these women. The message is clear. In their rush to push religious beliefs out of the public square, Anchorage officials are pushing vulnerable women out in the cold.
Certainly we can all agree, a place like the Hope Center shouldn’t have to minister on the government’s terms. It’s time for the City of Anchorage to send a new message to its vulnerable women: You matter, and you are loved. After all, that’s the message the Downtown Hope Center sends. And no doubt, it provides true hope.
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