The Juneau Homeless Coalition saw nearly 190 people utilize services at this year’s Project Homeless Connect – the most in the event’s three year history.
The annual program, which started in San Francisco, is designed to take a snapshot count of a city’s homeless population, and connect individuals to services.
Homeless Coalition Co-Chair Jorden Nigro says more people are taking part in the Capital City as word gets out about the event.
“We actually think there were probably a few more folks there who didn’t get through the registration process, but did get services,” says Nigro. “We had over 50 haircuts, 89 people registered for their Permanent Fund Dividends, gave away 18 pairs of reading glasses, the Front Street Clinic had 135 visits. One thing that I was so struck by was, it really does feel like the community helping each other out.”
Homeless Connect participants are asked to fill out surveys to help the coalition better understand the needs of Juneau’s under-housed population. Survey data was released yesterday (Wednesday).
Besides looking at the most popular services, the surveys track demographic information. For instance, respondents this year included 120 men and 66 women. Most of the participants were between the ages of 25 and 50, with the second-most between the ages of 50 and 70. A handful were older than 70 or younger than 25.
The Homeless Coalition estimates Juneau’s actual homeless population at 550 – nearly triple the Homeless Connect count.
Nigro says the group is just starting to get a handle on the causes of homelessness in Juneau, though one factor seems to be a shortage of affordable housing.
“A lot of the folks that came to Project Homeless Connect, many of them have jobs, many of them are couch surfing and things like that,” she says. “So, there isn’t a simple answer to homelessness in Juneau, there are multiple reasons that people end up homeless. But I think the more work we do like this, the more we can figure out who’s out there and what they need.”
Nigro says the coalition is involved in several efforts to find solutions to Juneau’s homelessness problem. That includes discussion of a Housing First shelter, where people would be allowed to drink alcohol on the premises. Housing First shelters in Anchorage and Fairbanks have been criticized for not addressing the root cause of homelessness.
Later this month, the Homeless Coalition will take part in another survey being led by Juneau’s Glory Hole shelter. The purpose will be to learn more about the most vulnerable individuals. Unlike Project Homeless Connect, the vulnerability survey will attempt to contact homeless people on the street, instead of making people come to an event.
2012 Juneau Project Homeless Connect Report [PDF]