The Juneau Arts and Culture Center is being used as a shelter for Juneau residents experiencing homelessness in the face of the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo | City and Borough of Juneau)

The Juneau Arts and Culture Center is being used as a shelter for Juneau residents experiencing homelessness in the face of the coronavirus. (Courtesy photo | City and Borough of Juneau)

With shelter plans in place for the homeless, city and nonprofits look ahead

Long-term planning is the game now.

As crises are handled, Juneau is looking toward the future as it assists its residents experiencing homelessness through the coronavirus.

“Things were calming down. We moved to the JACC (Juneau Arts and Culture Center),” said Dave Ringle, the general manager of Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Juneau, in a phone interview. “When we saw the weather get particularly bad, we opened up 24/7. We’ve moved back to eight to eight.”

The JACC is now the primary location of the SVDP emergency shelter, whose contract has been extended to July 15, said Scott Ciambor, the City and Borough of Juneau’s chief housing officer, in a phone interview. The JACC is capable of hosting 71 guests within CDC guidelines. Its highest occupancy, on Thursday night, was 61.

“We’ll definitely have a better sense where we are as a community towards June,” Ciambor said. “It’ll depend on the status of the health emergency.”

The Glory Hall is continuing to split its overnight patrons between the Glory Hall itself, which holds 16 guests, and a hotel, which accounts for 22 more people, said Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director of the Glory Hall, in a phone interview.

“We are continuing to house people in the hotel,” Lovishchuk said. “We are super grateful to the community for being able to do that. I think it’s the safest and most appropriate way to proceed.”

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The emphasis for many has moved from immediate emergency sheltering to looking for more long-term planning for an extended crisis, Ringle said.

“It’s hard enough for people who are well-adjusted to adjust to all the changes,” Ringle said. “When you take people who are on the edge and throw all these adjustments at them, it’s a challenge.”

With the vulnerable population’s day-to-day needs being increasingly effectively addressed, the city and its partners are looking at more permanent solutions to help those experiencing homelessness.

“The goal is still to get people into permanent housing situations and meet their needs,” Ciambor said. “We’re trying to make sure all community members are being healthy and safe and their needs are being met.”

Ringle said that there had been an increase, not the expected decrease, in guests at the JACC. At least two people had been in touch with him after becoming unexpectedly homeless in the employment crisis that’s accompanied the spread of the coronavirus.

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“There are people who are homeless now who probably never expected to be homeless. In normal times, those people might be couch surfing,” Ringle said. “When they say most Americans are one paycheck away from not making their bills, you look at the economy, and we’re getting close to that right now.”

The other major concern is the sustainability of operations, keeping those experiencing homeless fed and housed as the crisis goes on, Lovishchuk said.

“We’re definitely concerned about the food supply going forward,” Lovishchuk said. “We want to make sure that food is going to the food bank — we’re trying to coordinate that.”

All of those working to assist Juneau’s residents experiencing homelessness have been effusive in their thanks for those donating time, money or goods. That includes Juneau Community Foundation, which recently announced $593,000 in grants to support organizations that combat homelessness, much of which went to the Glory Hall, Juneau Housing First Collaborative, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Zach Gordon Youth Center.

“We’ve been so overwhelmed with the level of support coming from the community,” Lovishchuk said. “We’ve not always been the best with sending thank you notes to people but we’re so grateful to the community.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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