Homeless getting squeezed out of services

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007

The recent news article about the Thane Campground ("In Juneau, a community finds comfort living outside," June 17) failed to mention the plight of the homeless who live there year-round with less than ideal weather conditions. It seems that the Thane Campground, which was originally set up to help provide services to those experiencing homelessness in Juneau, is now being used for summer employment shelter options. As the medical provider who cares for Juneau community members who are currently without housing, this raises some concerns.

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It also has been reported to me that some of the seasonal businesses have been sending employees to the Glory Hole, the local homeless shelter, to use as a bunk house while working summer jobs.

Juneau has an estimated 600 homeless residents of its own. Many are working families, and at least 150 homeless children were enrolled in the Juneau School District last year. Others suffer from mental, physical or co-occurring disabilities and struggle to find medical care. I am concerned that these people are getting squeezed out of our limited services.

People who have homes in another state are now using the resources that are allocated to help homeless Juneau residents. Summer workers come to Juneau to work, save money and then return to their homes in other states. Inappropriate use of facilities earmarked to help those experiencing homelessness does not seem to be the best use of Juneau's resources. Services that are specifically designated for those who are homeless can inadvertently be accessed by summer workers by using their place of residence of the campground or shelter as verification of homelessness.

Community members should support elected officials who work to end homelessness in Juneau, but let's make sure our work reaches the people actually in need.

Gail Tharpe-Lucero


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