St. Vincent De Paul of Juneau lost its leader this summer, but the charitable organization continues to move forward in his absence and is looking to offer even more services.
Dan Austin, who had been with the organization for more than 20 years, died in July. The board picked up the slack for a while and then appointed Bradley Perkins as the interim manager. Maureen Hall, the president of the board, said the organization will eventually move on to hire a permanent replacement for Austin.
“We are definitely in the transition period,” Hall said, “but there’s a great staff in place at St. Vincent’s that Dan had a high degree of confidence in.”
St. Vincent is planning to honor Austin’s legacy by renovating its main facility and naming it the Dan Austin Transitional Support Services Center (TSSC). St. Vincent’s thrift shop moved this summer, opening up room at the main facility.
According to a letter from Perkins to the City and Borough of Juneau’s Community Development Department, the upgrades will provide office space for the Community Navigators program — which works as a case management service to help homeless people find housing and employment.
The TSSC will also provide laundry, food service, showers, a consolidated food pantry and more options for those who benefit from St. Vincent’s services. As of mid-September, Hall said, 52 people were in St. Vincent housing. The organization has four permanent housing units, 21 transitional units (where people can stay for a maximum of two years) and one unit for staff. Hall said they also serve people who live off the premises too with their food pantry and various outreach programs.
To do all of this, St. Vincent is pursuing $850,000 worth of federal Community Development Block Grant funding. The grant application is due Dec. 7, according to CBJ Assembly meeting materials.
Numerous community organizations — The Glory Hall Homeless Shelter, Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), the Juneau Reentry Coalition, Haven House and others — wrote letters to the CBJ in support of the TSSC. They all pledged to help the facility in some way, whether it’s supplying food or connecting people with the TSSC’s services.
The Assembly passed a resolution at Monday’s meeting in support of St. Vincent’s grant application, which stated that the CBJ will work with St. Vincent staff to apply for the grant on behalf of St. Vincent. The Assembly Human Resources Committee reviewed proposals from Bartlett Regional Hospital, the Juneau Housing First Collaborative and St. Vincent and selected St. Vincent.
The Assembly recently committed to set aside $1.8 million for the second phase of Housing First, which provides housing for Juneau’s most vulnerable residents. Hall said representatives from St. Vincent helped CBJ staff understand that while the work Housing First does is important, St. Vincent serves a wider demographic that also needs assistance.
“We provide housing for children and families and a broader range than the market that our current Housing First targets,” Hall said.
Hall said there are 32 adults and 20 children currently living in St. Vincent housing.
If St. Vincent is able to secure the grant funding, Hall said, the money could come as soon as February. St. Vincent is prepared to commit $680,000 to the project as well, according to Perkins’ letter to the CBJ.
Somewhat related to the TSSC, St. Vincent is also starting up a home visit program soon, Hall said. Instead of people having to come to the office to pick up food or bus passes or clothing, Hall explained, volunteers can come to the people in need. She said this program is likely to start in November.
The addition of the TSSC, Hall said, is another step in helping reduce the amount of homelessness in the capital city.
“We’re hoping to move in a direction of moving folks from homelessness to permanent housing where shelters are a step in the process, not a destination,” Hall said, “and in which being homeless in our community would go from being common, continual and cyclical to rare, brief and non-recurring. We hope to provide a more systemic approach to homelessness.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.