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Glory Hole seeks to fill employment gap

Posted: October 17, 2012 - 12:04am
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Molla Takele, left, and Kiel Renick collect trash along the Front Street stairway as part of The Glory Hole's new work program for shelter residents. Renick is the shelter's Outreach Coordinator.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Molla Takele, left, and Kiel Renick collect trash along the Front Street stairway as part of The Glory Hole's new work program for shelter residents. Renick is the shelter's Outreach Coordinator.

Juneau’s homeless have a way to earn some cash and develop connections and work skills as part of the Glory Hole’s new community works program.

The intention of the program is to meet people where they are with work opportunities and positive habits and some amount of financial help, Kiel Renick, outreach coordinator at the Glory Hole said. “Some residents at the Glory Hole work full time already, but still can’t make housing payments, he said. Some residents have physical or mental disabilities and are not intending to get in the work force.”

A middle group, whether just moved to Juneau and trying to get settled or have some minor disability or in recovery, fit the program’s profile. A person in this situation may not be ready to work a nine to five job, Renick said. “But maybe he is available this Tuesday at one o’clock and wants to come out and do something good for the community for four hours.”

Renick said he hopes to be able to develop a rapport with residents that allows him to make job recommendations in the future.

Currently, the program only puts residents to work one day a week for about four hours.

“We don’t have a ton of funding,” Renick said. The shelter spent $4,000 in 2010 and $6,000 in 2011 on work projects. The jump in spending last year was due in part to construction of the Glory Hole’s new vegetable garden. Recently, the shelter hired several homeless locals to winterize the garden. However, the program is lean with staff costs and transportation covered in the shelters budget and landfill costs waived by Waste Management.

"What we are looking for is to cover the wages for the people who are working," Renick added.

While the Glory Hole has provided temporary employment for residents to fix toilets, paint and handle food only in the last month did it establish a program to eventually formalize and streamline the process.

The Glory Hole Community Works program employed six locals on Tuesday to spruce up the area around the Rawn Way stairs near the pocket park on Franklin Street.

Aaron Bender said he came to Juneau from San Diego four months ago and is looking for full time work. He said he hopes his Glory Hole work will introduce him to potential employers.

Chris Cooper came to Juneau three months ago from Ketchikan. He said he signed up to work for a couple reasons.

“It is better than sitting around,” Cooper said, “and you get paid. And a little bit for references because I’m looking to work.”

Dalton Nierstheimer has lived in Juneau for 13 years. He said he works “to get out of the Glory Hole and do something.”

Workers use their earned funds, for example, to go out to movies, eat out, attend concerts, buy personal electronics and go on dates, Renick said.

The program is not designed to supply residents with a living wage.

“You’re not going to pay rent around here working a few hours a week at eight dollars an hour,” Renick said. “But it is having something positive to do, something that is going to be productive to your community …. it gives them ownership in their home.”

Renick said the Glory Hole has approached local and state businesses including BP and Goldbelt to collaborate on work projects. Already locals call in for day labor work, he said.

Renick said Glory Hole is modeling its work program on REACH’s custodial and shredding program for those with disabilities and the Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training program for seniors.

The work projects are not expected to compete with other public services or private contractors.

“We’re not taking jobs from somebody else,” Renick said. “We are trying to creatively provide and creatively fund jobs that are not getting done around town.”

The vision is to set up a system that can draw on the experience and trustworthiness of Glory Hole residents who have completed a dozen or so work projects already and can lead a work group.

“Someone who is capable and sober and ready to show up and do the job,” Renick said. However, if it is a large job, Glory Hole staff will supervise.

“We are hoping we can build a reputation as a work entity that can do low-skill, labor-intensive projects for a reasonable wage,” Renick said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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