Funding moves project on track

The City and Borough of Juneau Finance Committee voted Wednesday to move a $1.8 million funding promise for the Housing First project to the Assembly for consideration, but the hope is not a single dollar from that grant is actually spent.

Leaders and supporters of the Juneau House First Collaborative (JHFC) approached the CBJ Finance Committee members Wednesday with a “bridge funding” request that ideally will not be permanent. Instead it serves as a temporary solution to insure the project can break ground this winter. Funding commitments for JHFC must meet $6.5 million to begin construction. The organization, with this bridge fund promise, would be $35,000 from that necessary goal.

Glory Hole Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk said that final funding piece will be in place after funding from the Alaska Mental Health Trust is approved in January. Another $3 million through grants are expected to come through next year and her goal is to never touch the $1.8 million bridge funding by CBJ, if the Assembly approves it.

“We really do not have the intent of using this funding,” Lovishchuk said. “We have spoken to the other major funders and they are confident the other funding will come through.”

The mechanics of a bridge fund release the funder – CBJ – of financial responsibilities over time as other funds become available. Eventually, if $1.8 million is raised, the funder is completely off the hook.

On the other hand, if JHFC were to come up short in the end, this bridge fund could be tapped.

Several members of the committee expressed concerns that the wording of the funding left them vulnerable to lose $1.8 million if JHFC doesn’t secure the necessary funding.

Assembly member Loren Jones agreed early on to vote in favor of the bridge fund, but he said his history working with grants has taught him nothing is certain and this could become a permanent grant.

“I think this is something we have to do for this community, we have to support it,” Jones said.

Jones proposed the possibility that potential JHFC funders – the Rasmusson Foundation, Juneau Community Foundation and the Indian Community Development Block Grant – could see this backing as an indicator they no longer need to chip in.

Assembly member Karen Crane said while that is a possibility, it wasn’t a probability.

Lovishchuk said because all grant applications have already been submitted, grantors cannot consider this bridge funding in their analysis.

If the Assembly approves this bridge fund, construction for the Housing First project is expected to begin in January through Triplette Construction Inc., building units indoors until outdoor construction can begin in the spring.

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