Juneau is on a Watch List for homelessness, along with Bethel, Kodiak, and Anchorage. At one point in time this year, the Capital City had the highest number of homeless families in the state, according to a report recently released to the Alaska Council on the Homeless.
Five families were homeless during the Point-in-Time Homeless Count conducted in Juneau on Jan. 28th.
“It’s not necessarily saying that it’s the only set of homeless families that Juneau has seen or service agencies have dealt with and housed during the year. It’s just on that night, that was the number, and it seems to be much higher than it was in years past,” explains Scott Ciambor, chairman of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.
Three sets of surveys are used in Juneau’s Point-in-Time count: who was present at the last Project Homeless Connect event, figures from a database for emergency and transitional shelters, and a homeless count done through the school district. Point-in-Time surveys were collected throughout the state in late January, and a recent Alaska Housing Finance Corporation report highlights outlying numbers. The complete Point-in-Time Homeless Count report has not yet been released.
A study done last year by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development says Juneau is the most expensive place in the state to live. Shortage of affordable housing has long been a problem.
“It’s a really, really tough housing market with not a whole lot of building activity going on, so until we can substantially add more units to the community we’re still going to be having these issues of folks left without adequate housing in town,” Ciambor says.
Glory Hole executive director Mariya Lovishchuk is not surprised Juneau ranks high on the list for homeless families.
“We also have this phenomenon now more so than in previous years of people moving in from surrounding smaller communities into Juneau seeking better economic opportunities and just not finding anything,” she says.
For homeless families needing immediate shelter, there are options, Lovishchuk says, thanks to a coalition of social service providers.
“Everybody has great relationships. Most people have each other’s cell phones, so if we do get a family here regardless of what time of night or day, we call our partners right away and through this coordinated system we are able to place people in the best possible place for them,” she says.
The partnership includes St. Vincent de Paul, AWARE, Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority and the Glory Hole. All either operate transitional shelter or help pay for emergency housing.
Lovishchuk calls Glory Hole’s unit for families “inadequate” for longer stays, but says a father and son once stayed for five months. St. Vincent de Paul and Glory Hole also share a housing specialist that helps homeless families transition to more permanent options.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation announced Wednesday that a 40-unit housing development for low-income families is planned for Juneau, to get underway by fall.