Local News and Stories

St. Vincent de Paul hosting City and Borough of Juneau’s Sleep Off Program

BY BRADLEY PERKINS – SVdP GENERAL MANAGER

City and Borough of Juneau’s (CBJ) Capital City Fire/Rescue (CCFR) took over management of Juneau’s sleep off program on July 1. The service, which provides field evaluation and transportation of inebriated individuals to a safe space where they can sober up, was housed at Bartlett Regional Hospital and operated by Rainforest Recovery. CCFR will operate the new service out of a new facility housed at St. Vincent de Paul Juneau (SVdP).

With the change of management comes a new model and a new name — CCFR CARES, or Community Assistance Response and Emergency Services. “The new identity is to better reflect our vision of how the program will serve the community. Managing the sleep off center will be one facet. The core purpose of CARES is to connect people with needed services, start whittling away at their challenges and barriers, and hopefully reduce their reliance on emergency services,” Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said.

The CCFR supervised sleep off center will operate out of a new facility being constructed by SVdP in the space formerly occupied by the SVdP thrift store. The space is available, as SVdP moved the store operations to a new location last summer on Glacier Hwy. The new location placed the St. Vincent Store in the heart of the valley’s retail corridor, leaving the old space available for other uses. Bradley Perkins, SVdP General Manager, explained, “the old thrift store contributed toward the operational expenses of our Teal Street facility, which also contains our Transitional Housing Facility and Paul’s Place low-income apartments. I was tasked by the board with finding other uses for the vacated space.”

The main sales floor of the old thrift store was repurposed into the Dan Austin Transitional Support Services Center (TSSC). Last fall, the CBJ selected the TSSC and SVdP as its project to apply for a HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which would have paid for the renovation of this space and the adjacent donations area. Unfortunately, the State of Alaska did not select this project in the spring, although SVdP is considering applying to the CBJ again this fall with a scaled-down remodeling project for the TSSC.

Even without the CDBG, the TSSC is functioning in the space with offices for SVdP’s five Community Navigators (case managers) who serve Juneau’s homeless population. Also located in the space is SVdP’s free clothing outlet and food pantry for the homeless and those in need. The clothing and other items in the TSSC are from excess donations to the St. Vincent Store. The food in the TSSC food pantry comes primarily from collections at St. Paul the Apostle and Cathedral parishes.

The prior sleep-off center hosted at Bartlett Regional Hospital was in temporary buildings that were scheduled for demolition to make space for a new addiction center. When the CBJ and CCFR decided the takeover the program and staff it out of the airport fire station, they contacted SVdP, which is only down the street.

“Not only were we already close to their location, we had space, and the clients for the sleep off facility are generally, already clients of our Community Navigators – it was a natural fit,” according to Mr. Perkins. Clients will have immediate access to the navigators as well as access to the other TSSC resources such as clothing and the food pantry.

SVdP will construct the new sleep off facility in the prior donations area, which had already been planned to be day-use showers, laundry and locker facilities for the clients of the TSSC. Since the sleep off center also needed these services and operates primarily at night, this allows for a dual-use facility serving both the CBJ CCFR sleep off facility and the TSSC.

During the estimated three-month construction of the new sleep-off facility, SVdP is hosting the sleep off operations in a back corner of the TSSC, in a temporary sleep off facility constructed by SVdP board members, including Home Visit Team Leader Bill Diebels. Bill noted, “while fortunate that this temporary facility is only needed for three months, installing a temporary shower with no below-floor drainage was a bit of challenge.”

Mr. Perkins concluded, “SVdP already had a good working relationship with CCFR and the CBJ, having managed the city’s Cold Weather Emergency Shelter last winter. We see this an opportunity to expand and strengthen that relationship in reaching our clients and those in need throughout Juneau, as the city and these first responders are often the first to reach these individuals, and can be one of our best connections to them.”