The Juneau Assembly’s recent approval of a grant to expand the Juneau Housing First Collaborative project could lead to the permanent housing of an additional 32 people experiencing homelessness. While that number may seem small compared to Juneau’s total homeless population of more than 200, it actually addresses a large portion of Juneau’s chronically homeless population.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a chronically homeless person has a disability and has spent more than a year experiencing homelessness. Data collected daily by local agencies working on homeless issues help to figure out who is considered chronically homeless and who is not, and this determines who is eligible for residence in the Juneau Housing First Collaborative Forget-Me-Not Manor.
The Institute for Community Alliances maintains an interactive community dashboard for Juneau that is updated quarterly and shows congregate homeless data and characteristics of who is being served in the community. Since data was published online in Jan. 2017, 275-330 individuals each quarter have received shelter or support services in Juneau. The majority of these individuals need a resource or assistance once, or for a short period, while resolving an employment or income issue, a health or safety concern, a legal issue, or to contend with a relationship that has ended before moving on to a more permanent housing or a stable situation in or outside of Juneau.
There has always been a natural fluctuation of who utilizes the local safety net, which is dependent on a wide range of factors at any given time. As a hub community in Southeast Alaska, Juneau has many natural draws including employment, healthcare, and housing opportunities, as well as other things like Costco and parole offices. People come to Juneau for all sorts of reasons and the homeless population, whether homeless before or after arrival, is no different.
For the identified chronically homeless population with substance abuse issues in Juneau, the Juneau Housing First Collaborative Forget-Me-Not Manor is the appropriate permanent supportive housing intervention. Data from the operation of the initial 32 units over the past year has shown it to be effective. However, looking at the community dashboard results for the last two quarters (Jan-Mar 2018, Apr-Jun 2018), there are approximately 75 more chronically homeless individuals in the local system – people that don’t currently have the proper resource to maintain housing stability or that are utilizing a high level of limited homeless services geared toward one-time support. Even more costly, the chronically homeless are individuals using public resources like the emergency room and sleep-off, Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue engagement, or jail and prison stays. Along with CBJ’s financial commitment, if other funding opportunities work out for the Juneau Housing First Collaborative, 32 of these individuals could be placed in permanent supportive housing as early as summer 2020.
The total cost of adding 32 more units to the existing Juneau Housing First Collaborative Forget-Me-Not Manor is $5.9 million. Aside from CBJ’s $1.8 million commitment, the Collaborative has received other local support as well – Bartlett Regional Hospital has committed $250,000 and the Juneau Emergency Medical Associates have committed $15,000. With these local commitments, the Collaborative is able to apply for and be competitive for funding through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, which will ultimately determine if the project’s second phase moves forward in the near future.
Community members interested in supporting these efforts can volunteer or donate to the agencies that make up the local homeless housing and services system, so that the agencies can be effective ensuring clients use of the system is brief and non-reoccurring.