Cold weather depletes shelter stash

Juneau community outreach programs request cold-weather gear for homeless

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When the weather turns bitterly cold, Juneau's homeless turn to community programs to help keep warm.

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During the city's first cold snap at the beginning of the month, area shelters ran low on cold-weather gear and are now reaching out to ask for help in replenishing supplies.

George Briggs gave away 60 blankets at the start of the month as temperatures dropped below zero for several straight days. The director of the Glory Hole, downtown's homeless shelter, said more sleeping bags and tents are needed since five months of winter remain.

The 40-bed shelter saw a 25-percent increase in occupancy during the coldest days of the month, but Briggs said many homeless prefer to stay in area camps if the temperatures are above 25 degrees.

Front Street Clinic

• What's needed: Socks, insulated thick gloves, winter hats, Thermacare heat wraps, gift cards.

• Location: 225 Front St., Suite 202, in the Miner's Mercantile Building.

• Hours: Open weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed 12:30-1:30 p.m. for lunch. Opens at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

• Contact: 463-4201.

The Glory Hole

• What's needed: Sleeping bags, tents, tarps, gently used winter coats, socks and gloves.

• Location: 247 S. Franklin St.

• Hours: Open 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. every day.

• Contact: 586-4159.

"When it gets miserable they come in, but they'd rather have the independence so they make due," Briggs said.

Many homeless people sleep in vans or build shelters with tarps. High winds during the season's first serious storm blew shelters away, he said.

Gail Tharpe-Lucero of the Front Street Clinic said several homeless people told her they needed more warm clothes as she walked around the streets downtown during the most recent cold snap.

The clinic, a service of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, put out a call for certain items staff will hand out as needed to its patients.

Tharpe-Lucero said waterproof winter gloves designed for skiing or other cold-weather activities are especially needed.

"We didn't have any on supply so we were real hard-pressed to get some items," she said.

Since maintaining dry feet is an ongoing challenge for the homeless in Juneau's climate, both the shelter and the clinic said they could use a large supply of socks year-round.

Briggs said he gave out 800 pairs of socks last year during Christmas week alone.

Thermacare heat wraps also can be used to help prevent hypothermia, Tharpe-Lucero said. Donors can purchase the heat wraps and bring them to the clinic, or provide gift cards for area stores and the staff will buy what they need.

Because of limited storage, the clinic can't accept coats so the organization directed donors of those items to the Glory Hole.

There are an estimated 800 homeless people in the Juneau area.

• Contact Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or

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