This September, we opened the doors of MACK House (Minors Accessing Care & Kindness), our new housing facility designed to serve the specific needs of minors experiencing homelessness. We talked with Executive Director Alison Kear about this exciting new venture.
Q: Alison, we are all thrilled about MACK House and what it means for the youth we serve. Can you explain MACK House and its impact?
Simply put, MACK House is a safe place for teenagers experiencing homelessness — a safe place for them to take a reset. It is our intention to provide the unconditional love and absolute respect that we are known for but in a home environment versus a traditional shelter experience.
Specifically, this residential property will service up to ten 13 to 18 year olds experiencing homelessness. We will provide three meals a day, snacks, access to educational support, healthcare services and the services of our community partners. It’s going to be staffed 24 hours with people that love young people. And we’re intentionally keeping the size small so that they can get the dedicated attention that they deserve and need. Anyone who has raised teenagers will understand that strategy (smile).
Q: MACK House is specifically for minors. How is having a separate facility for this population going to allow us to serve them better?
A: We have always known that we wanted to create a more home-like experience for the minors who need our support. Prior to MACK House opening, all youth 13 to 24 were receiving services in the same space.
Our teams have managed it extremely well, but as we know, there are large developmental differences between a 13 year old and a 24 year old. This step of bringing minors to their own, residential home is an important piece of the puzzle in nurturing their specific needs while allowing us to expand services for the largest growing population of youth experiencing homeless: young adults 18 to 24.
Our goal is for Anchorage to be the first city to achieve “functional zero,” meaning we are effectively housing youth faster than others become homeless. This doesn’t mean that a young person will never experience homelessness. It In summary, minors have definite and different day-to-day challenges than our older youth. With minors, we are still working closely with families, with schools, and overall a different home structure of homework and navigating teenage angst. Being in their own space is truly a unique position we find ourselves in at Covenant House Alaska, and it’s because of the support of our community.
Q: Last quarter, we discussed the micro-unit groundbreaking, and now we are talking about another new facility, MACK house. Why are you opening these facilities at the same time, is that a part of the plan?
A: When I first started at Covenant House Alaska 25 years ago, the average age that we served was 14. Now, our average age is almost 20. Meaning, we could create a space that was small enough to offer that family-like environment that was still large enough to meet the need for it. This data also tells us that we need more for the largest growing population of homeless youth, ages 18 to 24. By moving minors off the YEC footprint and into their own home, we can construct the micro-units and expand the services for young adults. Simply put, teenagers have different needs than young adults, and now we have gotten to a place in our 33-year history where we can kick our services up a notch with separate facilities. To say this was a long time coming is an understatement. Not only are we thrilled, but so are our youth. They have been telling us for quite some time that this is what they have wanted.
By moving minors into their own home and specializing their care, it has paved the way to offer services like independent living quarters right here on our emergency shelter footprint.
Q: Why is it called “MACK House?”
A: “MACK” stands for “Minors Accessing Care and Kindness,” but we chose the name to honor our former staff members Mildred and Carlette Mack, who are a mother-daughter duo with a long Covenant House Alaska legacy. These two amazing women, who were fierce advocates and leaders, embody the values of family and unconditional love. You actually get to see it play out with them.
That’s what the Mack family drove within our organization — they want every young person to feel loved and feel like there’s someone special on their side. No family I’ve ever met other than the Mack family has really been able to demonstrate that through their career or even their own work at Covenant House. That is what will be demonstrated at MACK House, plain and simple. Young people will be loved. Young people will be valued. Young people will know of the Mack story. And also, “MACK” is easy to say.
Q: Could you tell us more about Mildred and Carlette Mack? What is special about them?
A: Oh, wow, you are really going to make me ugly cry here!
Mildred started as a caseworker here at Covenant House Alaska in 1993, and she served our youth with the utmost compassion and devotion. And what I realized when I started
working here is every young person that walked through the front door would call her, “Momma Mack.” That says a lot about her disposition.
Her daughter Carlette followed in her footsteps only two years later, starting as an intern. She worked her way through nearly every job here before becoming our COO in 2012. Carlette left us in 2020 to work with Covenant House International, and we really do miss her, but she’s so deserving of it and we’re all so happy for her.
Those ladies, they are “care and kindness.”
Q: We know that opening MACK House was quite a community effort. Who helped us in funding this project?
A: We had several generous funders from across our community without whom we could not have realized the MACK House mission.
The Municipality of Anchorage, the Richard L. and Diane M. Block Foundation, the Carr Foundation and the Administration for Children & Families Basic Center Program were all essential in funding this project. Their enthusiasm for and demonstrated devotion to empowering Alaska’s most vulnerable young people demonstrates the same value set we aim to embody with MACK House.
And, of course, this could not be possible without the continued support of all of our donors and volunteers. Everyone who sets aside a chunk of their paycheck, be it $100 or $1, to Covenant House Alaska, or spends a weeknight with our youth, or who contributes to our mission in any of the countless ways that they do, shares in this joyous occasion.
Thank you all for enabling us to continue the Macks’ legacy of tenacious service and unflinching compassion.