This photo shows Resurrection Lutheran Church which provides a warming shelter to Juneau patrons during the winter months. The shelter is set to close for the season following Sunday night, and on Monday, the City and Borough of Juneau’s seasonal campground, the Mill Campground will open. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows Resurrection Lutheran Church which provides a warming shelter to Juneau patrons during the winter months. The shelter is set to close for the season following Sunday night, and on Monday, the City and Borough of Juneau’s seasonal campground, the Mill Campground will open. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Warming shelter set for season closure, Mill Campground to open the following day

Shelter to close after Sunday night, campground to open Monday.

After months of serving up to 70 patrons per night, Resurrection Lutheran Church’s warming shelter is scheduled to close for the season after Sunday night.

The following day, the City and Borough of Juneau’s seasonal Mill Campground is scheduled to open for its fourth season. It offers 19 tent platforms and accompanying facilities free of charge on the Mount Roberts hillside between Franklin Dock and Taku Smokeries, according to Juneau’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The campground is scheduled to remain open until Oct. 16.

However, despite the quick transition between the closure of the warming shelter and the opening of the campground, Pastor Karen Perkins and Brad Perkins of Resurrection Lutheran Church said they are concerned the campground’s capacity does not nearly meet the influx in the number of patrons the warming shelter has seen in recent months.

“There are going to be people who don’t fit anywhere,” Brad Perkins told the Empire. “I don’t know where they are going to go and this housing problem is going to continue — there’s just no housing showing up.”

The Perkins said the warming shelter saw its patrons grow from around 45 people per night by the end of 2022 to a “huge increase” of around 70 people per night.

“It almost killed us,” Brad said.

The Perkins said to remain open and not turn people away, the warming shelter needed $40,000 of additional funding, which they said the city provided.

Multiple attempts to reach City Manager Rorie Watt and Deputy City Manager Robert Barr about the source of funding were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.

The Perkins said they attribute the “huge influx” in patrons to the shrinking amount of low-income housing available in Juneau and recent jumps in rent costs.

They said most of the new patrons are likely newly homeless and because of that have a much higher vulnerability rate. They encouraged Juneau residents to get involved with volunteer opportunities to aid people experiencing homelessness who will be impacted by the shelter’s closure.

Dave Ringle, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Juneau, said he’s concerned about the warming shelter closing for the season while the lack of low-income housing and the growing number of people experiencing homelessness continues to persist in Juneau.

He said with the warming shelter closing down for the season, he expects an influx of people in need of assistance and housing, something he said St. Vincent is struggling to provide currently.

“I’m very concerned and all our housing is full,” he told the Empire. “We are really not in a good position to help serve the downtown community right now — it’s going to be a process and a huge change for the people at the warming shelter.”

Ringle said in the past two years he thinks the number of people experiencing homelessness seems to be growing at a rate that drastically outpaces the amount of low-income housing available.

“It’s a challenge that has not gotten easier,” he said.

He said St. Vincent will continue to work at its maximum capacity to help as many people as it can.

Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director at the Glory Hall, said while every day is a “very dynamic” situation at the facility, she is confident the community will be able to come together to help the people who may be displaced with the warming shelter’s closure.

“Yeah, I think every year we do expect a bit of an influx in people and I think we are as prepared as we can be for this annual transition,” she told the Empire. “I do believe between the campground and other services and resources we will be able to figure out what to do.”

Lovishchuk said she encourages residents to donate or volunteer if they are able to aid people who are experiencing homelessness in Juneau.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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