Maria Norman, 80, guides her wheelchair/walker toward the front patio space of the senior living building at the St. Vincent de Paul of Juneau complex on Teal Street on Saturday. About 30 Juneau residents visited the complex during the morning as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Maria Norman, 80, guides her wheelchair/walker toward the front patio space of the senior living building at the St. Vincent de Paul of Juneau complex on Teal Street on Saturday. About 30 Juneau residents visited the complex during the morning as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A step at a time toward housing stability

Annual fundraising run/walk for St. Vincent de Paul Juneau highlights improvements, ongoing needs.

Maria Norman, 80, had a couple dozen strangers drop by her home Saturday, but since they were helpful-minded and there was a cookout with somebody else staffing the grill under a somewhat sunny sky she was fine with the extra activity.

“If the people watch me using this or whatever I don’t mind,” she said, guiding a small wheelchair/walker toward a sunny spot on a seat outside the entrance of her building at the St. Vincent de Paul Juneau complex on Teal Street.

About 30 Juneau residents, many in some way associated as a volunteer or other role with the local SVDP chapter, took part in a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk fundraiser Saturday. David Ringle, executive director of the local SVDP chapter, estimated about $10,000 would likely be raised from participants at the fundraiser as well as from others contributing as part of an online campaign, which is half of the current goal the organization has by next month for a range of facility and service improvement projects.

Officials, volunteers and donors affiliated with St. Vincent de Paul Juneau walk down a path alongside Egan Drive on Saturday morning as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Officials, volunteers and donors affiliated with St. Vincent de Paul Juneau walk down a path alongside Egan Drive on Saturday morning as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Among the suggested donation amounts were $25 to buy a sleeping bag or tarp, $50 for a bus pass or emergency transportation, $100 for a week of groceries, $250 for prescription drug assistance and $500 to cover a month’s rent for a room at the facility’s shelter.

For Norman, who moved from Texas to Juneau in 2009 to be with her family and then-young grandson, the past several years have been spent at the complex’s transitional housing for economically disadvantaged occupants before she moved into a permanent senior-living apartment in an adjacent building.

“That’s why I know all the people here,” she said.

As such, life has involved a mix of familiar and new faces, including residents at the complex arriving and departing, and friends she’s made such as some from her homeland Philippines who called during the cookout to tell her they were bringing Filipino food over.

Larry Gamez, a board member of St. Vincent de Paul Juneau, cooks hot dogs for visitors at the organization’s complex on Teal Street on Saturday as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Larry Gamez, a board member of St. Vincent de Paul Juneau, cooks hot dogs for visitors at the organization’s complex on Teal Street on Saturday as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Saturday’s event began at 9 a.m. with a 5K run, followed an hour later by a walking event taking either short or long routes from SVDP’s thrift store on Glacier Highway to its housing and administrative complex on Teal Street. For some participants such as Holly Piscoya, taking the walk with her two young kids, it was merely a chance to get outside and reconnect after being a volunteer at the organization’s thrift store before moving temporarily with her family to New York.

“We haven’t started up again since we moved back,” she said.

In addition to free hot dogs from a grill and other cookout fare at the end of the walk, SVDP officials offered tours of their housing facilities, and an overview of their programs that include services such as a free clothing “store” and food bags for people requesting them. But officials also noted a lack of available housing — a problem throughout Juneau, especially for lower-income residents — continues to be problematic and there have been recent shortages in other areas such as food distribution as well.

Angel White, 2, gets her face painted by Jennifer Skinner inside St. Vincent de Paul Juneau’s Teal Street complex on Saturday as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Angel White, 2, gets her face painted by Jennifer Skinner inside St. Vincent de Paul Juneau’s Teal Street complex on Saturday as part of a Friends of the Poor Run/Walk to raise money for the facility and its programs. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“Just in the last two weeks we’ve had to turn people away for the first time since I’ve been here because we’ve run out of food,” said Roy Anderson, housing manager for the local SVDP chapter, where he’s worked for the past five years.

SVDP officials, summarizing their activities for 2022, noted 1,800 pounds of food was distributed, not including 360 Thanksgiving holiday meal baskets distributed during the holiday. The program also provided more than 350 children with Christmas gifts through the Adopt-A-Family program, and more than $30,000 in direct aid during 113 “Home Visit Team” visits to 79 residences.

The local SVDP operates five low-income housing complexes in Juneau with 75 units and housed more than 100 residents during 2022 at its Teal Street shelter.

While SVDP seeks to offer transitional housing to low-income residents, there have been instances of individuals or families living in such places multiple times, said Scot Allen, an executive volunteer for the local chapter, while offering a tour of the residential buildings on Teal Street.

“I’ve been here 15 years and some families have been here four times,” he said.

But while space is tight — and sometimes there have been problems with tenants due to their inability to pay the rent SVDP charges or other reasons — Allen said generally officials do everything possible to work things out with people even if they’re forced to depart for a time.

“If we won’t house them there might not be anyone who will house them,” he said.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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