The subtle flurry of activity at the downtown Juneau homeless shelter and soup kitchen Thursday morning was similar to preparations students take at the end of a rainy school day.
Backpacks were zipped, hands patted pockets to make sure belongings were in place and many Glory Hall patrons adjusted hats or hoods before stepping out into the gray morning’s light rain.
“This is when it sucks to not have a place,” Glory Hall patron Lance James said. “God forbid we get to winter like this.”
Typically, the Glory Hall offers an open day room to give Juneau’s homeless people a place to get out of the elements or spend time off of the streets, but this past week day room hours and lunch servings were cut while the downtown shelter waits to find out how much state funding it will receive. While the funding picture isn’t totally settled, normal day room hours for weekdays are expected to resume on Monday since the lion’s share of state money is now poised to come through.
The state’s Homeless Assistance Program and Community Initiative Matching grants have typically provided about 20 percent of Glory Hall’s funding, said Mariya Lovishchuk, Glory Hall Executive Director, in an interview. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes announced in July put both of those revenue streams in doubt.
Some of that money was restored when the governor signed the capital budget into last month— Lovishchuk said about 80 percent of $97,500 in Homeless Assistance Program funding is expected — but the fate of the $50,000 community grant that’s used primarily to keep the day room open and provide meals is in legislative limbo. An announced bill signing Monday may clear things up, or potentially trigger a third special session for the Alaska Legislature.
Lovishchuk said cutting day room hours during a mostly sunny stretch of August while waiting to make an informed decision was partially done to ensure funds are left to open the room during harsher winter months.
“No matter what happens we will do full service between Oct. 15 and April 15,” Lovishchuk said.
While the day room is anticipated to open again on Monday, she said on weekends it will likely only be open 2-10 p.m., and the future of lunch meals is unclear.
Initially, breakfast seemed to be on the chopping block for this week as well, but oatmeal and coffee were prepared and served by Lovishchuk and deputy director Chloe Papier.
“I view that as a wonderful community thing,” James said. “They’re doing what they can in this moment, and that’s to be applauded. I probably wouldn’t have eaten this morning if I didn’t have that.”
The news that day room hours would be returning that was confirmed by Lovishchuk Thursday afternoon was warmly welcomed by patrons who spoke to the Empire.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with this for too long,” said Glory Hall patron Keoki Tafaoialii.
“It did feel good to be a part of something and take a stand against something that was directly affecting my life,” Tafaoialii said.
Most patrons who spoke to the Empire said during the week they were slightly discouraged by the reduced day room hours, but said morale hasn’t bottomed out.
Tafaoialii said it was his second of two days off from his job, so the week hadn’t been too tough so far, and he planned to fill his time with walks and a medical appointment.
“I think I’m going to try to keep myself busy,” Tafaoialii said.
Patron Robert Fawcett said he planned to spend the day looking for any work he might be able to find.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he said.
James predicted morale would go downhill quickly with rainier or colder weather, and said in some ways things had already taken a downward turn in the form of stealing among the homeless.
While James said the backpack carrying their belongings is never left unattended, there’s been an observable uptick in people’s belongings being taken.
“One thing that’s gotten bad lately is stealing among the homeless,” James said. “I saw it happening before, but it’s gotten really bad this week.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.