The property at 9290 Hurlock Avenue near the intersection of Egan Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road was vacant Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, but a group of nonprofit organizations are partnering to try and turn the site into a youth homeless center. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed two ordinances Monday which would allow the project to move forward. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The property at 9290 Hurlock Avenue near the intersection of Egan Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road was vacant Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, but a group of nonprofit organizations are partnering to try and turn the site into a youth homeless center. The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed two ordinances Monday which would allow the project to move forward. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Youth shelter awaits funding

Project won’t move ahead without full funding

A project to put a youth homeless shelter on Hurlock Avenue in the Mendenhall Valley took a step forward Monday night after the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed two ordinances enabling, but not guaranteeing, the project’s final approval.

A joint effort by several local nonprofits is trying to turn the former Juneau Youth Services building on Hurlock into a drop-in youth homeless shelter. The ordinances passed Monday allowed the city to let the project move forward, but City Manager Rorie Watt made it clear he would not proceed on the project’s next steps unless the Assembly was ready to appropriate the funds necessary to complete the project.

The two ordinances first returned the property to city hands from its previous owner, Alaska Legacy Partners, and second allowed the city manager to lease the property to Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority. The plan is for THRHA to maintain and operate the building and property while the Zach Gorden Youth Center runs a shelter program for homeless youths.

But in order to complete the project the shelter will need $120,000 annually from the city and in the next few years would need $586,000 for renovations to the building, Jorden Nigro, manager at Zach Gordon told an Assembly Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 7.

[City considers proposed youth homeless center]

The project received broad support from other social service organizations such as Juneau Youth Services and AWARE, and Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson called into the Dec. 7, meeting to express support for the project.

But one resident expressed her vehement opposition to the project, and accused the city of favoring for-profit companies over local residents. Most of the testimony given at the meeting had come from people who don’t live in the area, said Justine Bishop, a resident of O’Day Drive that intersects Hurlock.

While the ordinances passed Monday returned the property to the city and allowed the city manager to begin leasing the property, Watt said he wouldn’t do so until the Assembly appropriated money for the project.

“I would not take action on this until it (the Assembly) decided it wanted to proceed with the youth services program,” Watt said.

At the Dec. 7, meeting Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said she felt if the city moved ahead with the two ordinances, it was likely committing itself to funding the project. Watt agreed with that point, saying local governments were increasing being relied on for social service funding as state and federal sources were scarce.

It’s possible the project could find its additional funding through other grants, Nigro previously told the Empire, but that is speculative at this point.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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