Juneau homelessness continues to rise

Juneau is seeing an increase in homelessness.

That was part of the a report giving by CBJ Chief Housing Officer Scott Ciambor during the COW meeting Monday. In his report, Ciambor showed various numbers from Jan. 24, 2018 to display this increase. A total of 235 people were accounted for in unshelter, emergency shelter or transitional housing. This number is an increase from 2016 (211) and 2017 (215). Assembly member Norton Gregory asked if this increase was reflective of the city better tracking homelessness or if other factors played a role.

“My sense it is a multitude of factors,” Ciambor said. “I kind of think the impact of the lack of affordable housing, cost of living and opioid epidemic.”

With the addition of an emergency cold weather sheltered added this past winter, Weldon wanted to know if the addition actually led to the intended result.

“Looking at these numbers, it looks like we did a lot of stuff and made no difference or we did a lot of stuff and people just used it,” Weldon said.

Ciambor agreed that the numbers, especially the number of unsheltered homelessness (44) in the study was still too high although it was a decrease from 2017 (59).

In discussing the cold weather shelter, Ciambor shared numbers of people who used the shelter. Ciambor said the average number of people using the facility was between 20-25 and that maximum capacity was 30. Ciambor did not have numbers available for how many nights the shelter reached maximum capacity. Ciambor added that the shelter was successful due to its narrowed usage. The facility opened for 70 nights between Dec. 1 through April 15 when temperatures dropped 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

“It was very focused,” Ciambor said. “It did what it was supposed to do and did not try to do too much more.”

Irene Gallion, CBJ Housing and Homeless Services Coordinator, presented a way to help manage the homelessness issue by using a coordinated entry referral system. The system, Gallion said, would prioritize individuals for housing based on their needs. When clients enter the homelessness services system in Juneau, staff will collect data that is used to develop a vulnerability index. Those who are more vulnerable may use shelters more often than most and could have more police interaction.

“Our most vulnerable population is also our most expensive,” Ga

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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