Juneau’s cold weather shelter hours extended this week

Guests to the city’s cold weather shelter have their temperature checked by staff upon arrival. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

For now, visitors to the city’s cold weather emergency shelter will have a warm place to go during the day due to low temperatures and a statewide shelter-in-place order.

While the shelter inside the Juneau Arts and Culture Center is being cleaned during the day, Centennial Hall will be open. Visitors are still required to observe social distancing while inside.

People experiencing homelessness were exempt from both the city and statewide stay-at-home orders last week. With the shelter typically open overnight from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and other public buildings closed, many homeless community members have nowhere else to go.

The shelter is operated by St. Vincent de Paul under contract with the City and Borough of Juneau. It provides a warm place to sleep during the winter and recently moved to the JACC to allow more space between cots.

Interim St. Vincent’s Director Dave Ringle said this winter has been much colder and wetter than expected.

In past years, the shelter only opened on nights when the temperature was below freezing. Last winter, the shelter opened for a total of 79 nights.

So far this winter, it has been open almost every night.

“No one was expecting this,” Ringle said.

The shelter regularly sees between 30 and 40 people a night. Staff screen guests or symptoms when they enter the building. Anyone with a high enough temperature is evaluated by public health professionals.

Ringle said one guest was tested for COVID-19, but the results came back negative. That person was kept isolated while they waited for the test results and has since been allowed to return to the shelter.

“No one who gets tested is allowed back in (until we know the results),” Ringle said.

Guests who stay overnight receive dinner and breakfast. St. Vincent’s will now provide lunch with the help of community partners.

Ringle said the extended hours will last at least through Friday.

The shelter typically operates from November to April. St. Vincent’s contract lasts through April 15, but Ringle said they are negotiating a possible extension with the city.

 

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