The good news is they’re hosting their annual fundraiser in a new parking lot. The not-as-good-as-it-sounds news is a fire escape to a housing unit there is in such a condition a bear visiting several days ago was unable to climb its stairs.
The 12th annual Friends of the Poor Run/Walk is scheduled Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. to benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Juneau. Events include a 5K race from the FAA building to the Airport Dike Trail at 9 a.m., and a walk beginning at at 10 a.m. from Vincent de Paul’s thrift store at 9151 Glacier Highway to the organization’s Teal Street shelter, where refreshments will be served in the parking lot and tours offered of the housing and other facilities there.
The race fee for adults is $25 and donations will be accepted at other events, with the organization planning to use half of the proceeds as aid for residents and half for a series of building projects that are at mid-stage, said Executive Director Dave Ringle. He’s also hoping the event will revive interest among residents about getting involved in helping with situations that have become more difficult during past year.
“What we really need to do is get people back into volunteering,” he said Wednesday, noting involvement declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because many current volunteers are getting older.
The Teal Street complex — which has 57 of St. Vincent’s 101 local low-income residential units — including family, senior and short-term shelter housing, plus other facilities such as a free store — is a mixture of renovated and outdated infrastructure. Some flooring is new while other sections need replacing, as is the case with kitchen items. The parking lot was repaved during the past year, but a fire escape from the second-floor housing units needs handrail repairs and other improvements (even if the narrowness kept a bear away).
Ringle said there was a deferred maintenance list totalling about $2 million for St. Vincent’s facilities in Juneau, and so far they are about halfway through the list. Much of the funds are coming from sales at the thrift store, as well as government and other grants.
“Eventually, the goal is to have enough money coming from the thrift store to maintain the buildings with a little bit for rent,” he said. Despite the hardships of the pandemic, so far “people have been more generous than we thought.”
Then there’s just letting people know what housing, services and assistance is available from the local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul, since its website was last updated two years ago due to the pandemic disrupting plans.
“We’re the best-kept secret in town,” Ringle said, referring to services currently being offered local residents may not know about.
Ringle became the organization’s executive director in February of 2020 and thus was immediately confronted with the vast difficulties posed by the pandemic. But in some ways it’s the “recovery” period — including the end of an eviction moratorium this year – that is posing the biggest challenges.
“The peak of the housing crisis happened this spring and summer,” he said.
All of the organization’s housing units throughout Juneau are occupied, but some progress is being made on addressing the backlog such as the 24 senior housing units at Teal Street, Ringle said.
“I was given a waiting list of 92,” he said. “It was down to 10 last year.”
Not all the need involves housing. Ringle said help is needed at Dan Austin Free Store at the Teal Street complex, for instance, which is “full” due in part to the need for volunteers able to sort donations and staff the store. St. Vincent’s also provides food assistance at its Teal Street facility, food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and home visits to people needing assistance such as keeping utilities connected.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com