Glory Hole seeks director after Decker lands new job

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

The Glory Hole, the downtown homeless shelter and dining hall, is looking for a person with compassion and the ability to raise funds and manage staff and volunteers.

Joan Decker, executive director since November 1998, is leaving the position at month's end to take a clerical job with the state.

"I'm feeling exhausted and I'm feeling it's just time to move on," she said.

"It's not a job where you just put in your 40 hours," said Glory Hole board President Larry Rorem, pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

In Decker's three years as director, she has emphasized helping the shelter's clients get jobs by guiding them toward training for literacy, a General Education Diploma or computer work at the South East Regional Resource Center.

She has worked with the state job center to arrange for day-labor work and talked to employers in Juneau about opportunities. Once, when a jobless man came to Juneau on a ferry, Decker said she was able to hook him up with full-time work on a fish-processing ship by the afternoon.

She has garnered grants to buy rubber boots for prospective seafood workers and buy eyeglasses and medication.

"All of this goes into keeping people healthy, able and willing to go to work," she said.

Decker said she has seen a shift in available jobs from professional and skilled labor such as cabinetmakers into service jobs, such as being dishwashers and maids.

"The jobs at the absolute lowest end of the wage scale are the ones that have burgeoned," Decker said. "That is one of the reasons I have been emphasizing education."

Although many of the Glory Hole's residents find jobs in less than a month, the shelter also serves people with mental illness or alcohol dependency who stay for months.

"Those are the ones I'm still struggling with, trying to get some programs for," Decker said.

"I think a vital component," board president Rorem said, "that has been evident in our last two directors is a real compassion for people that are stuck on the margins of society."

Decker, who replaced Ellen Northup, came to Juneau en route to other parts of Alaska to see the northern lights, but ended up liking the town and looking for a state job here. She stayed in the Glory Hole while she looked fruitlessly and her money ran out.

Decker, who holds an English degree from California State University, volunteered at the shelter, eventually worked part time there and then full time as director.

"It's a total involvement," she said. "It's very much like getting involved with 60 to 70 family members who depend on you one way or another. They make you feel greatly needed."

In her tenure, Decker also has instituted a sack lunch program for people who are out looking for jobs or who don't want to eat at the shelter but are hungry. That includes teen-agers, who aren't allowed at the Glory Hole because its clients may include some sex offenders. The Glory Hole serves about 150 meals a day in its dining hall and gives out a few sack lunches every day, Decker said.

Lance Young, who has worked at the shelter, will serve as interim director until a replacement for Decker is found, she said.

Rorem said the board didn't have plans for new programs. But he said he was concerned more people will need the shelter's services because they aren't finding them elsewhere.

"The Glory Hole is for all people," Rorem said. "There has to be a place of last resort for people."

Eric Fry can be reached at

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