Winter campground likely to be scrapped

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Juneau Task Force on Homelessness will present a list of recommendations to the Assembly on how to solve the homeless problem.

    After much discussion the Task Force this week decided a winter campground was not the best way to serve the homeless.

    Instead the group supports a variety of solutions that include a temporary warming center, a new housing project called The Juneau Housing First Project that will create 32 permanent supportive housing units that target Juneau's highly vulnerable chronic homeless population, and other services.

    The group also learned that it cost more to do nothing about the problem because of the costs of emergency room and hospital visits, ambulances calls and police calls.

    One estimate of the cost is $2 million per year.

    Police Chief Ed Mercer said the number of calls for service has been pretty steady as his officers deal with the homeless population.

    The group had raised issues about all of the proposed sites for a winter campground.  They do plan to pursue housing assistance, use Medicaid and Medicare

    funding where possible, and also seek assistance for homeless veterans through the Veterans Administration.

    Task force member Bruce Van Dusen, himself a former homeless person, said he felt the meeting was very productive.

    "I think we have made good recommendations.  They are strong steps that will really make an impact on our homeless population by providing them with housing, medical care, mental health care, drug abuse care, and skills they need.  I believe the recommendations are sound, they are things that we know work, and I feel very positive about tonight's meeting."

    A scattered site permanent supportive housing program would use willing landlords to provide 10 housing units in the community.  The mobile support team will be available to assist.  The goal is to get the homeless off the street into permanent housing.  The total cost is $185,000.

    The warming center, which could be located at the downtown bus depot, would provide an emergency shelter for roughly 100 nights per year.  The start up costs and basic materials is estimated at $63,000.

    An Assertive Community Treatment Team would provide medical, behavioral health, and rehabilitation professionals who work together to meet the intensive needs of recipients with severe and persistent mental illness. The team would include a  a part time clinician, full time case manager, a part time nurse and peer support and cost an estimated $210,708 per year.



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