Michael Good, right, shows off his painted walking stick to Trevor Kellar, a community navigator for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, on Friday, July 20, 2018. Kellar helped Good, who has been homeless for most of his life, get a long-term apartment at the society’s Smith Hall Senior Apartments. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Michael Good, right, shows off his painted walking stick to Trevor Kellar, a community navigator for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, on Friday, July 20, 2018. Kellar helped Good, who has been homeless for most of his life, get a long-term apartment at the society’s Smith Hall Senior Apartments. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘A picture of hope’: Social service program offers helping hand to homeless

Navigators drive people to meetings, help with paperwork, offer encouragement

Michael Good has spent most of his adult life homeless. Just one week ago that all changed and he said he has his faith in God and St. Vincent de Paul’s navigator program to thank.

“To have this place is a blessing,” Good said sitting in his apartment Friday afternoon. “I’m thankful for it. To me, it is beautiful. It is a blessing. I love it.”

Helping people like Good is the goal of the navigator program. The program, which originally started in 2013 through the Glory Hole homeless shelter, is based out of St. Vincent de Paul Society. The program is aimed to walk homeless people through the various processes in life that may appear to be overwhelming. St. Vincent is a nonprofit organization that offers support and housing for homeless people. The navigator program is an extension of St. Vincent and is grant funded through the Juneau Community Foundation.

Trevor Kellar and Jackie Bryant have both been working with the homeless population in Juneau for several years and are community navigators for St. Vincent. Kellar worked at a California homeless shelter doing similar work before moving to Juneau and eventually taking on this role at Glory Hole four years ago. Bryant has worked at various homeless outlets and started as a navigator in June. Together they help escort people to appointments, meetings and anything else that can offer guidance to a person in need.

Kellar said his goal is to connect with people so that they feel comfortable around him.

“I just try to treat them like people,” Kellar said. “I tease guys a lot. I feel because that is my personality, they pick up on it and they like me for it.”

Good’s story goes beyond simply being homeless, Kellar said. Kellar said when he met Good he was suffering cognitive disabilities. Good said he had problems with drinking and drugs until a heart attack changed his life at 33. Good, who affectionately refers to himself as a “hobo,” still did not find a permanent home after the heart attack, but said his faith kept him going every day. Kellar said Good, who is now 62, spent most of his life train-hopping. When Kellar was introduced to Good at Glory Hole homeless shelter, he began working on a way to help. Eventually, a psychiatric evaluation was done, and the man was able to receive disability and now resides at St. Vincent de Paul.

Bryant, who has built relationships with homeless people over her years working at Glory Hole, said many times there are aspects of life that people do not even discuss.

“One lady I had been working with I knew that all her stuff had been stolen,” Bryant said. “So we started by replacing her ID and replacing her social security card. Her eyesight was so bad that we set up and took her to an eye appointment. It is stuff like that they do not even think about.”

Bryant said figuring out these needs are key because many people they work with will not even talk about problems they have.

“Sometimes they will not even ask for help because they see things in such a hopeless way,” Bryant said.

Kellar said the constant interaction with people allows them to see that he and Bryant are here to help if they need it.

“We approach them and we see them every day,” Kellar said. “When you are down (at Glory Hole) and they see us, they know what we do.”

Kellar said all the support programs in Juneau work together with St. Vincent in an effort to help homeless people. He said the navigator program is just one part of the greater solution.

“This happens because of the supports in the community and how we all work together,” Kellar said.

Glory Hole homeless shelter Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuck said in a phone interview with the Empire Friday that the program offers people something they may not have without it — encouragement.

“I think it really gives people a picture of hope,” Lovishchuck said.

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