Local organizations supporting Juneau’s vulnerable populations came together at the Glory Hall and St. Vincent de Paul Juneau to hold the first Homeless Connect event in years.
Normally held at the same time as the point-in-time count to assess how many people experiencing homelessness are in the community, regularly held in January, the event was pushed to this week as dozens of groups gathered in the sunny afternoon to help residents and renew old ties, said organizer and Zach Gordon Youth Center youth services coordinator Kaitlyn Conway.
“It was originally scheduled in January. We had to reschedule due to the COVID spike,” Conway said in an interview. “This is the first one since COVID. The last one was in January 2020.”
About 30 providers, from SVDP and Glory Hall to organizations like the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s Front Street Clinic, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Southeast Alaska Independent Living, JAHMI Health & Wellness Inc. and many others sent representatives to talk to those who required their services.
This event helps shrink the communication loops between organizations and helps those who need their services, said Dave Ringle, general manager of SVDP. He referred to a person who had been trying to get a replacement social security card.
“We did two weeks of playing phone tag in two hours of communicating,” Ringle said in an interview.
Many of the participants had only previously met virtually, Conway said. More than 80 people showed up to take advantage of the services offered, Conway estimated.
“It was great to see the providers for the first time in person,” Conway said. “I met so many people for the first time in person who I had only met on Zoom. They were like, ‘you’re tall.’”
Those close ties can help make sure that the organizations are looking out for Juneau’s vulnerable, Conway said.
“It’s important for everyone who has the same goal to get together,” said Justin Norris, registered nurse who works in the Front Street Clinic. “This mobile unit is here twice a week. It’s a full primary care visit.”
That common ground and close ties can help organizations as they deal with the multiheaded issues that can occur for people experiencing homelessness on top of other issues, Ringle said.
“I’ve noticed everyone is talking to each other. There is no stereotypical homeless person. It’s a complicated issue. People need different services,” Ringle said. “The opportunity to sit in a parking lot on a sunny day and talk to each other means when we have someone with a difficult, complicated situation, we have the basic knowledge and trust to better meet the needs of the people we serve.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.