Agencies for the homeless prepare pitch to city

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2005

Juneau nonprofit and government agencies serving the homeless met Wednesday to describe to a city board how they collaborate in helping their clients.

The groups must work together to make sure homeless people don't fall through the cracks, they told the Social Services Advisory Board. That board annually makes funding recommendations to the Juneau Assembly, but not every agency receives city funding.

"We know there is a need. We try to make resources happen," said Carin Smolin, adult education programs manager of Southeast Regional Resource Center. An adult education teacher from the center teaches English as second language, citizenship and general educational development classes at St. Vincent de Paul Family Center.

St. Vincent de Paul and 18 other local organizations are members of the Juneau Homeless Coalition. By pooling their resources, they can address homeless issues from medical, educational, legal and housing perspectives. They serve infants to runaway teens to seniors.

A nurse practitioner from the Front Street Clinic visits homeless families at St. Vincent de Paul Family Center every Wednesday afternoon. The Juneau School District keeps in close contract with different shelters in town to pick up homeless students. Gastineau Human Services, an agency that serves addicted male felons, refers its clients Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.

"During the budget season, the Social Services Advisory Board meets every individual organization to understand its needs and decides whether to give it funding," said Jodi Kilcup, executive director of United Way of Southeast Alaska. "Instead of turning them into competitors, we want to show how they work together."

Based on the board's recommendations, the city awards block grant to local social services organizations every year. The proposed grant for fiscal year 2006 is $600,000.

"We need to educate the board about the homeless system and the ways local agencies work together," said Kilcup, a member of the city's Social Services Advisory Board. She also serves as chairwoman of the homeless coalition because most of the agencies in the coalition are members of United Way.

The coalition is trying to get a grant to develop a census of Juneau's homeless. Because of the transient nature of the population, there is no official number of how many homeless people are in Juneau. The estimate varies from 300 to 1,600. Kimberly Homme, the liaison for the school district, has identified 200 homeless elementary and middle school students, though she said the actual number is higher.

With the grant, Glory Hole, the homeless shelter on South Franklin Street, would recruit homeless people to interview their fellow homeless people living in campgrounds, the woods or caves.

"The biggest problem is chronic homelessness," said Dan Austin, general manager of St. Vincent de Paul Family Center. "We need to find out why people become homeless in the first place."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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