Surveys profile Juneau’s most vulnerable

A survey of Juneau’s homeless community identifies 74 percent as vulnerable due to health issues, substance abuse, or mental illness. More than a third are veterans.

Volunteers last week conducted the Vulnerability Index Survey throughout the city and borough in an effort to compile a registry of those considered most in need. Survey organizer Kiel Renick says the average time spent on the streets was 10 years.

“It is very difficult to get off the streets in Juneau once a person has perhaps reached the stage that we were targeting with the survey,” Renick says.

Renick Monday presented some of the survey results to the Juneau Assembly Human Resources Committee, which has been working on the homeless issue for several months.

While the city’s homeless population is estimated at 560, the surveys targeted a specific group – who live mostly without any shelter and often have many other problems.

They survey is based on a Vulnerability Index of health and lifestyle risk factors that contribute to a person’s early death on the streets.

“Aspects of vulnerability include a person’s age; their ER, or hospital frequency; health conditions such as tuberculosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, things like that; physical disabilities and traumatic brain injury; alcohol or substance abuse, mental health issues and a few other factors,” Renick says.

The Juneau survey reached 47 individuals, ranging in age from 21 to 74, with an average age of 47. Most were males.

Sixty percent of those considered vulnerable were Alaska Native, 26 percent were white, while the rest were African American and other races.

Thirty-seven percent of the vulnerable were veterans.

Nearly half of those surveyed have had a brain injury or head trauma, more than half have a history of mental illness, while nearly 90 percent have had a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Juneau is one of 114 U.S. cities to join the national 100,000 Homes campaign to identify the most needy individuals and families and find them shelter by the middle of next year.

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