GHS to build short-term homeless shelter

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2001

The renovation of a triplex by Gastineau Human Services will provide Juneau's homeless with another option for temporary shelter.

GHS will renovate a tri-plex at 5584 Aisek Street to house eight adults for up to seven days, said Operations Director Andy Swanston. He said the agency plans to begin renovating the three-story vacant building in August and finish by early December.

GHS is a nonprofit organization that offers help for those seeking housing, treatment programs, information, counseling or referrals to other resources.

"There is not a lot available for the single male out there who suddenly finds himself homeless," Swanston said. "And a lot of people don't realize how many people this affects."

He said the shelter GHS currently runs has 138 beds, is full much of the time and often has a waiting list.

Swanston said the new one-bedroom apartments will be used as shelter for people who need short-term help. He also said there will be room in the facility for other nonprofit groups to use for their programs and services.

People can walk in off the street to request this emergency housing or be referred by police, clergy or a family member, Swanston said.

Once they have a place to stay, he said, the crisis center staff will put residents in touch with outreach programs to help them.

Swanston said this facility will not replace other shelters such as the Glory Hole or St. Vincent de Paul's housing, but will specialize in placing specific groups of the homeless.

"It's for the person who finds themselves at 2 in the morning evicted from their apartment, or a stranded tourist who has to wait a few days for travelers aid to help them," Swanston said. "Mostly we will be catering to the single adult homeless."

The city eliminated its Health and Social Services Department last year. Chris Beanes, a city planner, said the GHS project partially will fill the gap.

The crisis center will be staffed with two or three counselors and social workers, Swanston said. He said the agency has a small budget, so initially it will staff the center with GHS employees working in other centers.

Other organizations in Juneau helping the homeless are encouraged by this project.

"There is absolutely a critical need in this community for this type of facility," said Dan Austin, general manager for St. Vincent de Paul.

He said St. Vincent's has housing for the poor and displaced, and there are shelters such as the Glory Hole, but they often will take families and couples first. Further, he said their housing is more long-term and there is always a waiting list. He said it will be good to have a service in the community to take care of the immediate needs of the homeless.

GHS has $198,000 from a community block grant for new plumbing and a new roof for the building, and other items to meet the city building code. Swanston said bids for the work will be in by the end of this week.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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