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My Turn: New Year's wishes from the Glory Hole

Posted: January 1, 2014 - 1:00am

On behalf of the Glory Hole staff, patrons, and board of directors, I wish you all health and happiness in the New Year. 

This year was a very busy for us. We completed our weatherization and energy improvement project, had a great year in our garden, helped the community to receive nine tons of fish, optimized our staffing structure, thus reducing the number of patron staff conflicts and improving, well, pretty much everything.

We helped to coordinate the Alaska Conference on Housing and Homelessness, moved many people into stable living situations and out of our emergency shelter. We provided over 50,000 meals, over 11,000 safe and secure shelter nights, as well as countless other services like laundry, showers, transportation assistance, social service referrals, wellness and labor program services, housing search assistance, SSI/SSDI assistance, and much more.

We instituted a PATH Program that gives help to people who are staying at the Glory Hole for over 60 days because other options are not available. We were instrumental to ensuring that the Front Street Clinic remains open, providing primary medical, mental health, and dental services to over 300 unduplicated clients per year. We are playing a major role in creating the Front Street Health Center and are very happy to report that starting April 30, Front Street will serve not only those experiencing homelessness but everyone in need of affordable primary care.

On a less cheery note, 2013 was also a sad year. Several people who were experiencing homelessness died on the streets of Juneau, the body of one of them was on the side of the highway for hours. The much needed housing first facility, a proven solution to bring dignity, relief, and improvements to the lives of those afflicted with alcoholism and other co-occuring disorders, as well as to reduce public spending on emergency services, medical bills, and crime, seems very far away from completion. The number of individuals and families experiencing hunger and food insecurity has not declined. There is still a huge shortage of affordable housing in Juneau. The numbers of families with children, young people, and senior citizens who use our services are not diminishing. Many people remain or become chronically homeless. In some cases chronic homelessness is becoming a multi-generational issue. The Glory Hole is about $15,000 short on the amount of contributions we budgeted to receive in 2013. That may mean cutting programs in the New Year.  As I write this, a young family with a 9-month-old baby is seeking shelter here and I was informed of a broken faucet and a washing machine.

In spite of all the challenges, I would like to jump back to the good. A few minutes ago, someone who used to live at the Glory Hole, and has now moved on to having a very productive and independent life, walked in, got online, and purchased a 100-cup coffee percolator as a good will donation. The good will, generosity, resourcefulness, and kindness of the Juneau community continued to amaze me in 2013. We are so grateful for the donations of money, goods, and services from great local businesses, individuals, and organizations. We are so grateful to the Juneau churches and Congregation Sukkot Shalom, our partner agencies and their great staff and supporters. We are extremely grateful for the Juneau Police Department, United Way, the Rotary Club, our Juneau Delegation, our local media, State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the Rasmuson Foundation, AHFC, the city manager, and the Alaska Mental Health Trust. Last but definitely not least, we have to say and keep on saying thank you to our hundreds of volunteers. It is certain that we are only able to do what we do because of the local and statewide support we receive every day, to help us to carry out our mission of providing food, shelter, and compassion to those in need to help achieve wellbeing. 

As we welcome in 2014, I think about what lays ahead and about my hopes for the New Year. Some of my hopes are very simple. Not surprisingly, I hope that as a result of this article, our budget deficit issue is solved and the community of Juneau steps up to help the Glory Hole once again. Raising $15,000 in the next few days may mean that we do not have to make cuts to our very basic but very important programs. I hope that the baby I mentioned in the paragraph about challenges has a fulfilling life and never sees an emergency shelter as an adult, because, in spite of all the odds, she will grow up to be healthy, secure, and successful. I hope to have the opportunity to work toward and achieve a social enterprise solution to Glory Hole’s revenue issues. I believe that providing our patrons with another opportunity for meaningful employment and job training while at the same time generating a significant amount of non-grant or donation-based revenue for our facility is a necessary way to move forward. I hope that the Housing First facility gets closer to becoming reality. I hope that together we can make significant strides toward ensuring that hunger and food insecurity are not the norm for almost 10 percent of our citizens. I hope for thoughtfulness, compassion, gratitude, and grace.

Happy New Year, Juneau!

• Mariya Lovishchuk is the executive director of the Glory Hole.

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