The City and Borough of Juneau is currently advertising for a brand new position – a Housing and Homelessness Services Coordinator. At its most recent Regular Meeting, the Assembly approved accepting a $100,000 grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to fund this staff member. The new position will work directly with the Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness to coordinate housing and service efforts, and serve as the point person for the Assembly on homeless issues and initiatives. Look for the job posting on CBJ’s Human Resources website; it closes Nov. 9.
Creating this position was one of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, which concluded in September and presented its recommendations to the Assembly. The result of these efforts provided the guidance that homelessness – its causes and solutions – require time, collaboration and resources.
Another task force recommendation was to provide funding for an emergency warming shelter. The working goal of the facility is to provide shelter space from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on nights that temperatures fall below 32 degrees. The final decision to fund a warming shelter will go before the Assembly during its Nov. 6 Regular Meeting. As city staff members work out the details, keep in mind that while this effort will help this winter, a warming center is a short-term fix as future, long-term solutions come into place.
Communitywide efforts to decrease the number of unsheltered homelessness in Juneau have been underway for some time. Here are just a few examples:
- The Juneau Housing First Collaborative opened its permanent supportive housing residence in September. While the true impact of Housing First in Juneau won’t be known for some time – the JHFC Board has put into place a 3-year evaluation to look at a variety of impacts – 24 of the community’s most vulnerable individuals are now sleeping in their own beds, in their own apartments and getting the support services they need. Eight more will move in soon.
- The Juneau Housing First Collaborative has also been chosen to receive about $70,000 in federal funding to offer similar housing but in private apartment rentals; this is called scattered site permanent supportive housing.
- The Volunteers of America plans to open 35 housing units, some of which will be set aside for homeless people.
- Through Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, Juneau now has a case manager working toward housing Alaska Native veterans experiencing homelessness.
The task force also recommended more scattered site permanent supportive housing in Juneau and to assist community partners in developing an Assertive Community Treatment Team. Assertive Community Treatment is a team-based treatment model that provides multidisciplinary, flexible treatment support to people with mental illness 24/7.
Tackling homelessness and ensuring all residents have a place to call home is difficult and complex. It is hard to see this problem in the community and know how, as an average citizen, to make a difference. One way to assist is to recognize that CBJ community partners providing housing and services need ongoing support. Please consider donating to organizations that are on the front line of providing services as well as to the Juneau Community Foundation, which channels community donations to fund projects. These organizations are working toward solutions and making the community stronger.
(This is written by the City Manager’s office and originally appeared in the November 1, 2017 Juneau Empire in a segment called, “City Corner”)