The Glory Hole homeless shelter pictured in July 2017 is pursuing relocation. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Glory Hole homeless shelter pictured in July 2017 is pursuing relocation. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Moving helps Glory Hall with ‘sacred responsibility’

This is why the Glory Hall Board wants to move.

The mission of the Glory Hall, formerly Glory Hole, is to provide food, shelter and compassion to those most in need to help achieve well-being. This simple yet critical mission is extremely important to us, and this is why we joined the Glory Hall board. The Glory Hall strives to help our friends and neighbors in crisis, and it is truly an honor to do what we can to help.

Our board is a working board and just as there is never a dull moment at the Glory Hall, there is never a dull board meeting. From cooking dinners, putting together the Empty Bowls event, assisting with fundraising, addressing concerns of the Glory Hall patrons, taking the lead on the development of innovative new programs such as the Juneau Housing First Collaborative project, helping our wonderful staff deal with intense crisis, holding up our staff and patrons during moments of grief at memorial services for patrons who passed away, there is always something to do. This is nothing short of a sacred responsibility, and we do not take our service lightly.

The Glory Hall is a safety net. It is one of the last barriers between darkness and despair and the warmth of humanity. This is the last shelter, the last place to get a meal, often the last opportunity to make it back from the brink. Our recent decision to consider relocating the Glory Hall did not come easy and is the result of lengthy and serious deliberations. The ultimate question of how we fulfill our mission most effectively guided us. What is the best way for us to help those most in need achieve well-being? Can our patrons be best served in the current location or in a different location?

This winter, after many discussions as a board and with our staff who consulted with many of our patrons, we reached the decision to pursue relocation in order to best meet our mission. Currently, our emergency shelter is not accessible. The original lift only reaches to the second floor. In order to reach the third floor with an elevator, a significant amount of critical space for beds, having meals, day shelter, and office space will be lost.

Even without the new elevator installation, there is not enough dinner seating, not enough space to securely store patrons’ and program belongings, not enough space for our skeleton staff. Up to 11 women each night share access to a tiny bathroom. People try not to disturb each other while getting off the top bunk at night. Patrons who suffer from PTSD and symptoms of mental illness have no privacy and their condition is further exacerbated. There is no space to have meaningful conversations with helping professionals. Safety and health are serious issues.

We have been fortunate to have an architect on our board. Northwind Architects have donated their time and expertise to create a concept for a new facility. This facility has individual sleeping and storage spaces for our patrons, an accessible shelter and an adequate number of bathrooms. The new design incorporates many elements which will promote a therapeutic environment and a space truly conducive to well-being. In short, if created, the new space will be worthy of our guiding mission.

Many of you have been to our current building, volunteering to cook dinner, sharing bread with our patrons, donating useful items. You understand the realities of our current building as well or better than us. Please take a moment to visualize a new building where people can safely sleep and recover from trauma and from stress, a building with adequate seating and storage, a building which will help our patrons to be safe and to feel well.

Our staff have been discussing the potential new facility with our patrons. Some of the questions our patrons ask are as follows: Is the new place on the busline? The answer is yes. Is it true that everyone will get privacy while sleeping and secure storage? The answer is yes. Will there still be transportation assistance between the new building and downtown? The answer is yes.

It may be difficult for some to square this move and its associated costs with our current state budget uncertainties, which are threatening some of the operating funding for TGH. In fact, we will not be able to provide day shelter, and breakfast and lunch starting on Monday. With this said, it is important to understand that one of the less-discussed drivers of the move is greater economic independence for TGH, reducing dependence on outside funding to ensure its ability to serve its mission over the long term. The current TGH building is owned outright by TGH and is a potential revenue source that could help achieve greater financial independence. If we are successful in achieving this relocation, the current building will be put to its highest and best use from a commercial zoning standpoint, which will directly accrue to the economic sustainability of TGH and indirectly the economic vitality of South Franklin.

Please know that we consider this to be a big and difficult-to-reach decision and also that we want to hear from you. Please write to us at or reach out to individual Glory Hall board members. Soon we will host a question-and-answer meeting between the board and anyone who is interested. Most importantly, thank you, the community of Juneau, for your generosity and support. We are all in this together. We want to hear from you. We want to work with you. We want to continue to carry out the mission of the Glory Hall, to provide food, shelter and compassion to those most in need together, because we will never and have never been able to do this without our community.

Marla Berg, Board Chair

Bruce Denton, Vice Chair

Tom Wagner, Treasurer

Patrick Minick, Secretary

Merry Ellefson, Board Member

Jorden Nigro, Board Member

Dave Hurley, Board Member

Greg Smith, Board Member

Michael Grubbs, Board Member

Arne Ellefson-Carnes

• Marla Berg is the Chair of the Glory Hall Board of Directors. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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