Juneau’s winter warming shelter has closed, but no summer campground has taken its place

On Monday, April 15, the last night before Juneau’s warming shelter closed, a man who gave the name Mikey said he and his partner did not know where they would go next. (Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

On Monday night, about 20 people slept on cots in the warehouse that served as Juneau’s warming shelter this winter. At its peak, the Thane shelter housed 63 people. 

A man who gave the name Mikey said that he and his partner had been staying in the shelter since losing their housing earlier in the winter. But he said it’s been hard for the two of them to keep uprooting their lives every day.

“I carry close to 50 pounds of stuff in my backpack. He’s walking with his walker with three hip surgeries,” he said. 

Now, those day-to-day problems are likely to get even harder. The warming shelter closed for the season on Tuesday morning. But unlike previous years, the people staying there could not move to a city-run campground.

Earlier on Monday night, at City Hall, the Juneau Assembly tabled a plan that would have relocated the city-run campground for people experiencing homelessness to a new location further away from downtown. 

“We really don’t see any good options — any, frankly — for the campground at this point,” Deputy City Manager Robert Barr said. 

He said the cost estimate for preparing the new location came in much higher than expected, and a nearby construction project made it unsuitable. But he said there aren’t any other better locations. 

The Assembly’s decision means there is no plan in place for a city-run campground, unless they can find a suitable location. That could still happen this summer, but it’s not clear where or when. 

Assemblymember Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said she will be pushing for the city to find a solution that isn’t dispersed camping. 

“I don’t think dispersed camping is any kind of solution,” she said. “So I will be pushing still for us to find something and try to overcome those obstacles.”

Dave Ringle is the executive director of St. Vincent de Paulʼs Juneau chapter, which ran the shelter this winter. He said some shelter patrons have found temporary housing at Juneauʼs year-round shelters, like the Glory Hall. But others would have to find a place to sleep in their cars or camp for the summer. 

“We donʼt have a good campground option,” he said. “And so we’re going to ‘camp where you can,ʼ which most cities have. And we’re going to monitor it.”

Ringle said that even if the Assembly does find a suitable location for a new campground, it’s still just a stopgap. He said what Juneau really needs is more affordable housing.

“Long term, we’ve been taking some steps in that direction, but in the short term we have to keep people alive,” he said.

Before going to sleep for his last night at the shelter, Mikey said he and his partner — and many others in the shelter — did not know where they would go next. He said he felt abandoned by the city.

“Take a look at what you’re doing to us right now,” he said. “Where are we gonna lay our heads for tomorrow night? We don’t know.”

#Juneaus #winter #warming #shelter #closed #summer #campground #place

Leave a Comment