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Haven House, neighbors try and talk it out

Dispute draws attention from Murkowski, Muñoz

Posted: February 27, 2014 - 12:07am
A placard bolted to a city street sign at Malissa Drive and Gail Avenue expresses the feelings of residents in the Valley neighborhood where a house was recently purchased by Haven House, Inc. to provide a group home for women making a transition after prison in Southeast Alaska.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
A placard bolted to a city street sign at Malissa Drive and Gail Avenue expresses the feelings of residents in the Valley neighborhood where a house was recently purchased by Haven House, Inc. to provide a group home for women making a transition after prison in Southeast Alaska.

Haven House Juneau held an open house Saturday afternoon to address neighborhood concerns surrounding city zoning issues that could force it to pack up and move.

The faith-based group plans to open a transitional living facility for women coming out of Alaska’s prison system. The facility is located in Mendenhall Valley’s Tall Timbers neighborhood, but city planning staff determined earlier this month that Haven House qualifies as a halfway house rather than a group home by City and Borough of Juneau definitions.

The Tall Timbers neighborhood zoning doesn’t permit halfway houses, Community Development Director Hal Hart previously told the Empire.

The Saturday meeting between the Haven House board and Tall Timbers Neighborhood Association was meant to clear the air.

Many residents are concerned about the placement of the home, with some even posting signs in their yards that read, “Haven House: Right idea, wrong place.”

Others submitted My Turns published in the Empire voicing strong opposition to the organization moving in. Representatives of Haven House wrote to defend the home’s right to operate in the neighborhood and combat its designation as a halfway house.

The back-and-forth between the two sides drew the attention of a couple of politicians. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited Haven House during her stay in Juneau last week. Rep. Cathy Muñoz met with the neighborhood association before attending the Saturday meeting.

Neither offered a comment before press time Wednesday.

“We wanted to express our own side of things” to Muñoz, said neighborhood association member Sammy Legg.

Legg grew up on Malissa Drive, the location of Haven House, and lives next door to its current location. She said about 40 people were at the Saturday meeting, which “was a very friendly atmosphere at first.”

The meeting later grew “pretty tense” when back-and-forth discussions between the two groups got heated, she said.

Haven House board President June Degnan said the meeting “went well” and “there was a lot of dialogue.”

“It was time for discussion,” she said. “People have a right to defend their property and people need to know information about their property.”

Legg said despite the meeting, she’s worried Haven House won’t take the neighborhood’s concerns into account. The association feels its questions and complaints have so far fallen on deaf ears, she said.

“They’re acting like they’re settling in to stay and they’re just going to steamroll over us,” Legg said. “I think that’s been the most distressing part.”

The association presented a list of 25 questions to the Haven House board, addressing its concerns of transitional home residents living near the neighborhood’s children and without access to public transportation, as well as Haven House’s appeal.

Questions included: “What is the application process like for women wanting to live at HH? Are there any backgrounds, criminal offenses or situations that could disqualify a woman from applying to HH?” and “Please describe your site selection process. Why did you decide against consulting the neighborhood’s residents during this process?” The list of questions can be read alongside this story online at

The nonprofit has appealed the city’s decision, Degnan said. The city has six weeks to respond to the appeal.

Hart said Haven House’s appeal is now in “legal review” by the city.

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Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 02/27/14 - 06:52 am

Why is it that some people simply believe they can walk over the rights of others. Living in an area zoned single family residential is just for that use--single family homes. Not trailer parks, welding shops, liquor stores ......
Why don't these folks who are so concerned with transition for felons just take a couple of felons to live in their family homes. The individual attention would be better and they would get to experience success on a personal level. Instead these good people would rather put the burden on other people!

Tim Miller
Tim Miller 02/27/14 - 10:52 am
Haven House clarified that

Haven House clarified that they are a "safe home" not a halfway house, see:

My turn: Haven House a safe home, not a halfway house 2/7/2014 Larry Talley Haven House, Inc. secretary

That sign is shameful and on CBJ property. CBJ needs to take it down.
Sammy Legg, what people do in their homes is really none of your business. Now if your new neighbors were "disturbing the peace" which kept you from being able to relax and enjoy personal and family time at home then complain all you want.

I believe "single family residential" is about how many houses are allowed to be built on a lot or in a neighborhood. It is not about how many people can live in a house.
With our cities, current housing crisis this "safe group home" fits in with the current need to increase residential density and provide affordable housing.

Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 02/27/14 - 11:43 am
Follow the money....

Who's paying for this venture; could it just be a way to devalue property in the area so that more homes can be bought at low cost and turned into additional transitional housing. Juneau could be the location for all of Alaska's reformed felons; no road in or out--escapees can't get far. And who benefits financially? Non-profit doesn't mean people work for free. And Alaska's already contracted with out of state for profit prisons. Are we seeing an alternative to tourism and state government as a new source of revenue for Juneau?

Kathy Ellis
Kathy Ellis 02/28/14 - 01:44 pm
Fear of felons

For those who fear felons living in their neighborhoods, I must ask: at what point does a sentence end? The women who would live in this house have served their full sentences. They are not on probation or parole. They are attempting to reenter society, and many roadblocks are placed in their paths. Very few companies will hire convicted felons; very few landlords will rent to them. Can you honestly say you are afraid that a "convicted felon" will walk past your house on the way to the bus stop? I seriously doubt if we are talking about murderers or rapists. These are people who have made serious mistakes, and have paid for them. Are we going to make them criminals for life, or will we allow them a second chance?

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