This early September photo shows a rain soaked Mill Campground which is set to close Saturday afternoon after its third season, the City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

This early September photo shows a rain soaked Mill Campground which is set to close Saturday afternoon after its third season, the City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Mill Campground set to close this weekend

An estimated 20 people will need to relocate.

Mill Campground will close Saturday afternoon after its third season, the City and Borough of Juneau announced, which means closure of its 20 tent platforms and facilities that are offered for free to people experiencing homelessness who used the campground.

The site, which is located on a hillside beneath where the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tram passes and leased the land from AJT Mining Properties for $1 a year, has been at or past capacity throughout the summer and into fall, according to Michelle Elfers, deputy director of the city’s parks department. Elfers estimates that after the site’s closure around 20 people will need to relocate.

The last night to camp at the campground will be Friday and all campers need to finish removing their belongings from campsites and food storage lockers by noon on Saturday, according to the city.

Elfers said the city has made the notice of closure apparent to the campers so that people can prepare to vacate the location and said the city works with the Glory Hall to assist people if needed.

“We are always trying to make sure they are aware of what their options are in town,” she said.

Once the closure period starts, the area will undergo around a week of cleaning before it officially closes out until April. At that point, the people experiencing homelessness that used the campground will need to find shelter elsewhere, such as at other local homeless shelters including the Glory Hall, or the Resurrection Lutheran Church warming shelter that opens when temperatures are below freezing.

Dave Ringle, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Juneau, said they are at full capacity and cannot accept new people seeking housing.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Ringle said. “What we’ve been trying to do is get as much housing available for people, but that’s much easier said than done.”

He said the high amount of homelessness is due in part to the rising cost of housing in Juneau, the lingering effects of COVID, inflation and the end of an eviction moratorium. Social services agencies report Juneau is Alaska’s most homeless city on a per-capita basis, with 1.5 times the rate of Anchorage and three times that of Fairbanks.

Ringle said St. Vincent de Paul Juneau is actively seeking blankets and winter clothing to offer to people experiencing homelessness and trying to open spaces in their family shelter and into new housing to give space to new families also struggling. He recommended that the people leaving the sight get in contact with the warming shelter.

“For the people leaving the campground, it’s going to be tough for a while,” he said. “I wish I had an easier answer.”

Chloe Papier, interim executive director for the Glory Hall said, their facility is also at or close to capacity every night and is currently housing 65 people.

She said that the Glory Hall staff are trying to work with the people currently housed at the Glory Hall to find other options possibly available for them so that more room can be made in preparation for the people living at the campsites who may be seeking housing come Saturday.

“It’s definitely on our mind that the campground is closing,” she said. “We’ll do our best but we’re definitely worried, especially with so much rain coming, and we worry about people and we’re really trying to accommodate everybody that we can.”

Papier said staff at Glory Hall plan to visit the campsite throughout the week and speak with people living there to make sure they have a plan after the site closes.

Recently, the Juneau Planning Commission extended both the operating hours and the season for the shelter at Resurrection Lutheran which will be open during nights the temperature is below freezing from 8 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. once temperatures drop below freezing — with no official opening date specified — and close April 15.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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