A sign marks the site of a proposed social services campus at 8617 Teal Street near the Juneau International Airport. The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission will vote to approve two permits necessary for the project to continue at a July 14 meeting. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A sign marks the site of a proposed social services campus at 8617 Teal Street near the Juneau International Airport. The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission will vote to approve two permits necessary for the project to continue at a July 14 meeting. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Permits are next step for social service campus

A planned homeless shelter and social services office building could get permitted next week

A plan to consolidate social services in Juneau at a new campus in the Mendenhall Valley could take a step forward next week, if the City and Borough of Juneau approves its permits at a July 14 meeting of the Planning Commission.

The Glory Hall and United Human Services of Southeast Alaska want to build a social services campus at 8617 Teal Street near the Juneau International Airport.

The plan would bring several existing organizations together under one roof. Those organizations will still be responsible for their own programming and funding, said Joan O’Keefe, executive director of UHS and Southeast Alaska Independent Living, but they would share the same building.

Bringing service agencies together under one roof will allow for cost-saving efficiencies and make it easier for both service providers and those in need, O’Keefe said.

“What we’re doing is making that delivery of services more efficient for both the providers and those who need those services,” O’Keefe said. “What we’re trying to do is provide a solution. There are homeless people in this community, we know that. It’s wise to put services and solutions out on this campus.”

[City needs to weigh role in social services, manager says]

UHS is a group of nonprofit agencies working together to provide services including, SAIL, Disability Law Center of Alaska, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Alaska Legal Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska and United Way of Southeast Alaska, according to the UHS website.

Many of these organizations are currently renting their own offices, O’Keefe said, but under one roof they can share office space and better coordinate their services. There’s a lot of overlap between the people served by the various agencies, O’Keefe said, and having all those services available in one place will make things easier on both providers and the needy.

The problem is finding money to actually build the new campus, said Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director of Glory Hall. The new building is just going to house existing and already funded social service programs, not add any new ones.

“What we do for the amount of money we get is a lot,” Lovishchuk said.

Funding for Glory Hall is largely split among money from the city, state and grants, according to Lovishchuk. Despite a predicted economic downturn in funding for social services, need for those services is expected to remain, if not grow.

“When you think about people who are experiencing homelessness, this already costs money if we don’t deal with it,” Lovishchuk said.

City Manager Rorie Watt told the city Assembly at a June 22, meeting that demand for services is already high and local agencies are struggling. The city needs should consider how involved it wants to be in providing social services, Watt said, considering economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase demand.

[Glory haul: Juneau homeless shelter eyes move to Mendenhall Valley]

There have been multiple community meetings to discuss potential problems, particularly the campus becoming a gathering place for homeless people, many of whom have mental health and substance misuse issues. But the campus will be more self-contained than the existing building downtown on Franklin Street, Lovishchuk said.

“I think when people see what’s happening downtown, that’s what they envision when they hear there’s going to be a social services campus,” she said. “I don’t think that’s going to be the reality at all.”

The two organizations have submitted a joint application for a permit to build on the land, O’Keefe said, but will eventually divide the plot so each organization owns its own land. Next Tuesday, the Planning Commission will vote to approve a conditional use permit for an emergency shelter and a social services building and a waiver for parking spaces.

O’Keefe has already contacted multiple charitable organizations that might contribute to the project, but once the permit is approved she plans to ramp up efforts to make the plan a reality.

“Yes, it’s a heavy lift. Yes, we have to raise the money and we have to sustain (programs),” O’Keefe said. ” We’re putting the puzzle together on funding to make sure it’s affordable and sustainable and we’re so gratified by all the community support.”

Lovishchuk said the project has received more positive feedback in public comments than she anticipated and argued the campus will help stabilize a lot of homeless people who already live in that area.

What’s more, there’s already been a social services organization near the proposed location for years now, said Dave Ringle, general manager at the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“A lot of people don’t realize this shelter’s been here for 30 years,” Ringle said of St. Vincent’s housing campus located on Teal Street near the proposed site. “We’ve had some rocky times with businesses in the past, but nothing we haven’t worked out.”

St. Vincent’s offers transitional housing for people moving out of homelessness, as well as other low-income people and families, many of whom receive services from the organizations to be housed at the Teal Street campus, Ringle said.

“A program needs to be well delivered to be effective,” Ringle said. “Once they get the services, there are some people who are coming back and returning the favor. Giving people a chance sometimes yields the best results.”

The Planning Commission will vote on the permits July 14 at 7 p.m. Public testimony will be taken at the meeting via phone and written comment can be submitted at any time to the Commission’s email, PC_Comments@juneau.org.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

More in News

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Pebble developer files appeal with Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership’s application in November.

This August 2019 photos shows a redline at Treadwell Arena designed by Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan. The arena is adding new weekly events to its schedule, City and Borough of Juneau announced. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Treadwell Arena adds new weekly events

Hockey and open skate are on the schedule.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 22

The most recent state and local numbers.

A Coast Guard Station Juneau 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Auke Bay during an exercise in 2018. A response boat similar to the one in the photo was struck by a laser near Ketchikan on Saturday, Jan. 17, prompting an investigation into the crime. (Lt. Brian Dykens / U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard wants information after laser pointed at boat

“Laser strikes jeopardize the safety of our boat crews…”

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Jan. 21

The most recent state and local numbers.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. ( Courtesy Photo / Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy pitches dividend change amid legislative splits

No clear direction has emerged from lawmakers.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom, right, wearing a bib with ExxonMobil lettering on it, congratulates Peter Kaiser on his win in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska. The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor as the Iditarod prepares for a scaled-back version of this year’s race because of the pandemic, officials said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. ExxonMobil confirmed to The Associated Press that the oil giant will drop its sponsorship of the race. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)
ExxonMobil becomes latest sponsor to sever Iditarod ties

The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost another major sponsor.

Has it always been a police car? (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read