Residents begin moving into their new homes at Juneau’s expanded Housing First facility

Phase two of Juneau’s Housing First project in Lemon Creek doubled the size of the existing Forget-Me-Not Manor. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The first tenants began moving into the new wing of Juneau’s Housing First facility this week.

Housing First is a concept that provides permanent housing and access to services for vulnerable people.

Juneau’s Housing First facility in Lemon Creek is called Forget-Me-Not Manor. The new wing doubles its size.

Once everyone’s moved in, the building will house more than 60 chronically-homeless residents.

Mariya Lovishchuk is the project coordinator for the Juneau Housing First Coalition. She also runs the Glory Hall, Juneau’s downtown homeless shelter.

“This time, it’s a little bit more complicated by COVID,” Lovishchuk said.

Moving into the Housing First facility requires federal vouchers, which the pandemic has made more difficult for some people to get. But Lovishchuk said everyone should be settled in before winter arrives.

Forget-Me-Not Manor first opened three years ago. There’s a medical clinic on-site and counseling is also available. Tenants pay rent on a sliding scale, depending on their monthly income.

In the first six months after it opened, a study by University of Alaska researchers found that tenants saw a significant drop in emergency room visits and interactions with police.

Lovishchuk hopes the new wing will reduce pressure on the Glory Hall and the city’s emergency shelter.

The Glory Hall had to reduce the number of people allowed inside the building during the pandemic. They plan to build a new facility in the Mendenhall Valley next year.

“I don’t think it’s going to help at all with our issue of having only 23 people inside or for our building being completely inadequate for COVID,” Lovishchuk said.

She added that people moving into the Housing First facility — many of them medically vulnerable — will be safer not sleeping in group settings.

Volunteers from a local quilting group made quilts for every new resident. Northern Light United Church donated gift baskets with basics like shower curtains, dish soap and towels.