The Glory Hole dining hall and homeless shelter plans to found a separate shelter that will serve homeless teen-agers.
The group's board of directors this week voted to expand its services, based on a May 1998 McDowell Group survey that counted "in excess of 100" and perhaps as many as 200 teens subsisting on the street in Juneau. The study defined "on the street" as "not living at home and with no regular place that provides shelter, food, safety and positive adult support."
To provide shelter for teens, the Glory Hole will act as an umbrella agency for channeling financial support earmarked for helping disenfranchised youth, said Joan Decker, executive director of the Glory Hole.
"We are all very excited," Decker said Thursday. "As a result of having the homeless forum last month, we had 26 people volunteer including (outgoing assembly member) Cathy Mu-oz and (state representative) Beth Kerttula." The volunteers are being organized by Ric Iannolino, who began compiling information for the 1998 study in 1996.
In the past, the Glory Hole has not knowingly allowed unaccompanied teens inside its premises for fear they could become targets of sexual predators. Earlier this year, however, in an effort to provide nourishment to teens at a safe location, the Glory Hole began taking fried chicken and other food to the Zach Gordon Youth Center.
"In the year 2000, it was acknowledged in Anchorage that there was a problem with homeless teens at the statewide level, and Juneau seems to be the most active of any community in trying to do something about it," Decker said.
The Glory Hole has already looked at one possible location for the new shelter, she said.
"We invite donations and will hold them in an account just for teens," she said.
Decker believes that the change in public attitude in recent months is due to "media attention, which has generated a lot of attention from the public. So right now we have offers of people to write grants, offers of help and offers of property."
Iannolino, who has been working with troubled youth since 1986, has approached Covenant House in Anchorage to ask if Juneau could become an affiliate, but has not yet had a response. Covenant House, a teen shelter, has a charter that allows it to serve the whole state, he said.
"Teen homeless is mostly rooted in family dysfunction, and we have no treatment for family dysfunction in Juneau," Iannolino said. "I have been aware of this situation for over 20 years. But all we have is Johnson Youth Center."
Juneau's Johnson Youth Center is a state-run jail for youths.
"If we continue putting in status offenders (runaways and minor offenders) with much more serious delinquents, they learn all their tricks. We create a growth industry. The status offenders haven't done anything serious. They are mostly in crisis - usually family crisis," Iannolino said.
Anyone interested in volunteering for this effort can call Decker at 586-4159 or 780-2536 or Iannolino at 789-2728 or 463-5226.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.