Several of Juneau’s social service organizations came together Thursday to develop short-term solutions to the city’s homelessness issue as winter approaches. One of the first goals of the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness was to identify duplicated services and gaps in service.
“We’re coming on winter, we’re dealing with the pandemic,” Mayor Beth Weldon said at the meeting. “Please stay within your charge statement, we are not looking for budgets. We’re looking at getting rid of duplications and filling in the gaps.”
Many of Juneau’s social service organizations provide similar services, City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire in an interview, and there is a need for increased communication between agencies particularly as the coronavirus pandemic exposes weaknesses in the existing systems.
“There’s just so many moving parts, capacity and need are both moving targets,” Watt said. “We need to communicate more, I don’t think the agencies are apart, I do think there is persistent tension between who does what.”
Thursday’s meeting was largely introductory, with various representatives discussing who they served, who they couldn’t serve and some of their biggest challenges.
Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale asked representatives if rumors that Alaska or Juneau was an attractive place for homeless people because of the social services offered and the Permanent Fund Dividend.
“I think it is true to a very small degree,” said Jackie Bryant of St. Vincent de Paul Society Diocesan Council of Southeast Alaska. “Sometimes for jobs that haven’t worked out this summer. I don’t know why, they don’t seem to have a reason.”
Asked how often new arrivals to Juneau seek out social services, Bryant said more often than she expected.
“Two or three a month, it does happen,” she said.
This was something Watt said he hears about frequently.
“I get persistent calls about homeless people moving to Juneau,” Watt said. “All people are mobile. We’re all Americans, we’re all mobile. Homeless people move in and out of town, new people in the homeless population is not a trend.”
Another issue touched on in the meeting was willfully non-compliant people, those who refuse to seek help. Bryson asked representatives to document how such people impacted the provision of services.
The committee was started by Weldon, who wrote the Sept. 25 charging document that outlined three missions. The first was to develop a framework for better coordination between social services providers. The second was to review the information provided to the city by the Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness and the third to develop a data management system for homelessness.
The committee is chaired by Bryson and made up of city staff, Assembly members and representatives from various social services organizations in Juneau.
Committee members are Hale, Watt, Marla Berg, Bruce Denton and Mariya Lovishchuk from the Glory Hall; Chris Gianotti, Jackie Bryant, and Dave Ringle, from St. Vincent de Paul; Katti Carlson, from Family Promise; Dave Branding, from Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc. Health & Wellness; Jackie Pata from Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska; Mandy Cole from AWARE; and CBJ Chief Housing Officer Scott Ciambor.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.