Haven House: Right idea, wrong place

Haven House Inc. has proposed opening a transitional living facility in the Tall Timbers neighborhood southeast of Glacier Valley Elementary School. The location, stated in numerous public records, is 3202 Malissa Dr.

 

The writings and statements from Haven House have characterized the proposed facility in confusingly different ways.

1) They stated that Haven House will be a halfway house, a transitional living facility, a group home and a single-family dwelling.

2) They said the facility will be unsupervised and that it will be supervised by a house manager and co-director.

3) They wrote that the residents will be people that “can (and do) live in Juneau.” Haven House also stated that residents will be imported from cities such as Ketchikan and Anchorage.

Due to these and many other contradicting statements made by Haven House, it is difficult to tell what Haven House actually is.

But, make no mistake, it is easy to tell what Haven House is not — a proper fit for this residential neighborhood.

The proposed site is inappropriate for any business. It is especially inappropriate for a business where the inhabitants, for nearly every need, must find a way to leave the neighborhood. Haven House is intended as a first stop for ex-offenders released from prison. As its business plan states, Haven House residents will go outside the house for “life skills development, job skills training, substance abuse recovery and similar programs.”

Newly introduced into society, these post-corrections residents must have easy access to a multitude of services: employment, job search centers, job interviews, colleges, vocational training and medical services, to name a few. Also important is having nearby grocery stores, transit stops, shopping and other services.

For the proposed residents of Haven House, the house is not so important as its location. The planned site is tucked deep into a quiet neighborhood with nothing more than single-family homes. The planned site is far from the required facilities and institutions that are desperately needed for the success of the Haven House residents.

The nearest bus stop leading to downtown and the valley requires folks to walk for nearly 1 mile, right past Glacier Valley Elementary School. These streets here do not contain a single streetlight. There are no sidewalks. After a winter storm, I have seen these small streets go for three days before being plowed. This site is a poor choice that forces folks to walk out of the neighborhood on dark, snow-covered surface streets for nearly every need.

The presence of felons at Haven House is not central to the neighbors’ concerns, but it is still unnerving to many. In Alaska and the United States, nearly everyone has been touched by crime, my family included. Many in Juneau have had encounters with the criminal justice system, served time themselves, or had a family member or loved one who has.

Everyone sustains some hope that many of these people can somehow gain a footing and resume living in society. However, as a practical matter, it is well known that Alaska has the highest recidivism rate in the nation. Even prison volunteers with decades of experience honestly admit seeing offenders come back to prison time and time again, not able to escape the revolving door.

It is clearly inappropriate to house these folks in a residential neighborhood during the brief period before, admittedly, some of them will re-offend despite everyone’s best efforts.

This is a neighborhood where children often ride their bikes in the street, right in front of the intended halfway house. Three doors down, there is a day care. Across the street, there is a child’s swingset in plain view, popular with the local boys and girls. More than 20 children live within a quarter mile.

Clearly, the current site is the wrong choice for everyone involved — for the planned residents of Haven House, and for the families of this neighborhood.

• Dan Hubert is a Juneau resident and lives near the proposed location of Haven House.

Transitional housing for women to open in mid-March
Haven House runs into zoning conflict
My turn: Haven House a safe home, not a halfway house
Haven House from a different perspective
Empire Editorial: Compromise needed for Haven House
Haven House fills a need

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