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Groups seek support for assisted-living for seniors in Juneau

Meeting at 6 p.m. tonight in the Nugget Mall Community Room

Posted: June 25, 2013 - 4:38pm  |  Updated: June 25, 2013 - 11:06pm

A meeting Wednesday night will seek support from the public and local officials regarding assisted living for seniors in Juneau.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Nugget Mall Community Room.

“We hope what will come out of it is evidence of deep support from the community and that we will have some talented and impassioned people who will want to serve on a task force that will take this project to completion,” said Sioux Douglas, a community volunteer with the Juneau Community Foundation.

The Juneau Community Foundation, the Juneau Commission on Aging, Senior Citizens Support Services Inc., and the Juneau Economic Development Council are hosting the event.

The group sees an existing need for assisted living. The meeting is to assess the level of those needs.

“We don’t want just [support from] seniors who hope to get this,” said Douglas. “We want family members who are concerned about loved ones, contractors, developers, land owners.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, the entire Juneau delegation will be in attendance.

“It’s extremely important because you already have a huge group of Alaskans all over the state and here in Juneau that are in need of some sort of care during their daily lives,” said Representative Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. “But right now we don’t have an assisted living facility here in Juneau.”

Through 2011, Juneau’s senior population — age 60 or over — stood at approximately 5,000, according to Jim McCall, housing relations officer at Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. Of that population, 1,700 were over the age of 70.

Overall they comprise a third of Juneau’s population.

“While overall housing needs for seniors continues to grow in Juneau,” said McCall in an email, “wait list time frames are often long, forcing seniors and their family members to make challenging decisions, up to and including possibly relocating the senior to another community.”

It’s not secret there’s a housing crisis in Juneau, but there are new projects, for seniors and other community members, on the horizon.

A low-income, 40-unit complex on Vista Drive in Douglas is in the planning stages and recently won $7.6 million in federal grant funds and low-income housing tax credits from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

However, it is proving harder to find land to develop while also meeting the needs of the community as a whole, whether it is low-income, assisted living or affordable housing.

It is harder still to find the developers and contractors willing to break ground when cost of construction outweighs the return.

But that’s not the focus of the Wednesday meeting.

“That’s a separate conversation,” said Douglas, “but it doesn’t negate that it’s equally important that we have affordable housing across the board.”

The group is hoping to garner the support of local politicians and the community, along with the support of the AHFC.

“AHFC’s grant and loan programs are available to assist with developments of this nature,” said McCall. “We routinely promote these programs statewide in an effort to assist communities in meeting the needs of its older residents.”

Douglas is certain the turnout at Wednesday’s meeting will show the need for assisted living and garner the supporters to move forward with planning.

“I’m very confident that the community will rise to this occasion,” said Douglas. “We have a generous, talented community and I believe there will be some good folks who will rise to the top for this occasion.”

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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