United Way SE's town hall meeting eyes range of issues

Miscommunication, alcohol abuse surface as primary concerns

Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The United Way of Southeast Alaska may find that affordable housing is the most urgent problem. But alcohol abuse and communication between Natives and non-Natives dominated the discussion of the organization's first town hall meeting.

After almost half a year of household surveys and interviews, the United Way of Southeast Alaska and the McDowell Group identified affordable housing and alcohol abuse as the top community issues.

The two groups released the survey results to a group of 40 people at Perseverance Theatre Monday evening.

Scott Miller, researcher for the McDowell Group, said poverty is a root cause of many community problems.

"Even though Juneau has the strongest economy in Southeast Alaska, many households are economically fragile," Miller said. "The cost of medical insurance and health care is a particular concern for many Juneau families."

People who attended the meeting expressed their worries on issues ranging from a lack of venue for the young people to fetal alcohol syndrome.

Greg Brown, a Native culture specialist at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, said he has had trouble finding a place for his dance troop of 100 children to practice. He suggested the community find a place for the Natives to practice their dancing and share their cultures with non-Natives.

John Williams, chairman of a steering committee that reviewed the findings, said the Native community should let non-Natives know that they want other people to know about their culture.

Daniel Cornwall, a state librarian, said the city needs to have a job training center downtown. Cornwall said part of his daily job is to assist people who come to find jobs.

"People come to the state library to use our public Internet and look at job listings," Cornwall said. "Some of them need help to fill out applications. We try to help as much as we can."

Ben Coronell, a retired police officer, said the city needs to address the high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome among the city's population.

Jodi Kilcup, executive director of the United Way of Southeast Alaska, said the nonprofit will keep collecting resident feedback. The organization will have a radio call-in meeting at KTOO-FM at 7 p.m. and another meeting at the University of Alaska Southeast's Lake Room at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.



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