Housing advocate job created to help residents find homes

Stan Marston offers 'one-stop shop' for affordable living needs

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stan Marston believes his new job as a full-time housing advocate will be the catalyst of more success stories in the fight against homelessness.

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"It will prevent homelessness, plain and simple," he said.

The Juneau Housing Coalition has had a goal for more than a year to create a full-time position to help those in need of housing assistance, said Daniel Ungier, affordable housing advocate for United Way of Southeast Alaska. The coalition is a group of 25 nonprofits, local government agencies and businesses.

"We've recognized for a long time that one service that was missing was extra assistance to help people find and maintain housing," he said.

The nonprofit organization St. Vincent de Paul will manage the new position, but the services are available to the entire community.

Marston described the new position as a "one-stop shop" for all needs associated with finding and maintaining housing. Helping citizens apply for federally subsidized housing vouchers and find apartments, and providing assistance with rent and utilities are some of the tasks Marston will undertake, he said.

"As you well know, it gets expensive to heat a house, especially if you have kids," he said.

The Juneau Homeless Coalition is hearing more and more stories about working families struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of rent in the community, Ungier said.

"This position really is trying to make a dent in the huge issue of affordable rental units in Juneau," he said.

According to the most recent Juneau Economic Development Council overview released in August, Juneau had the highest average rent in the state. The average rent in Juneau is $1,076 a month compared to the statewide average of $928, it said.

Marston and Ungier attribute the growing homeless situation in Juneau to the cost of rent.

"It is a big issue," Marston said. "Percentagewise it's probably bigger than Anchorage or Fairbanks, simply because Juneau is isolated. A lot of people get here and they can't get out."

According to Juneau Homeless Coalition estimates, there are up to 825 homeless people on any given night in the capital. That number includes people staying with friends or relatives, in a hotel, or in overcrowded conditions.

The homeless issue becomes more visible as the colder weather approaches and many seasonal workers are looking for employment, Marston said.

"It will peak sometime in February or March, depending on the weather," he said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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