Housing First gets more money, but still in hole

In second try, Central Council helps project secure $600,000 from feds
  • Royal Hill, of Triplett Construction, directs a lift operator in the placement of a stairwell module at the Housing First project on Allen Court on Sept 12. (Photo / Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)

A project to put a roof over Juneau’s most vulnerable residents just received a federal grant for $600,000. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the money to Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska through its Indian Community Development Block Grant program.

“We’re excited; $600,000 is a lot of money,” Myrna Gardner, Central Council’s business and economic development manager, said on the phone Monday.

“Central Council is a stakeholder in the community. Regardless if it’s a tribal citizen or a community citizen, it’s still our people in Juneau and Southeast Alaska, and if they’re homeless and need help, we want to be a part of that,” she added.

The 32-unit Housing First project will cater to Juneau residents who have barriers to housing stability, including individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, developmental disabilities, chronic alcoholism and other substance-related disorders. The project aims to provide housing and resources without the caveat of sobriety or other preconditions of treatment. Anchorage and Fairbanks already have such housing.

Central Council worked in partnership with the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority and the Juneau Housing First Project when it applied for the HUD funding. This was Central Council’s second attempt at the Indian Community Development Block Grant.

“We really felt bad the first year when we thought we did a strong application and we weren’t successful, and so we were really crossing our fingers, dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s, checking everything and strengthening our application because we wanted to be a part of Housing First. We wanted to support it,” Gardner said.

In order to not touch any of the $1.8 million bridge financing the City and Borough of Juneau appropriated to the project last year, Housing First still needs to fill a funding gap of about $1 million, said Mariya Lovishchuk. Lovishchuk is executive director of Juneau’s shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole, which is one of the five partner agencies working on the project.

In order to do that, Lovishchuk hopes the second time is a charm for another grant application through the city.

“The (Housing First project) board is planning on applying for another Community Development Block Grant,” she said. “You can apply for $850,000. We’re going to strategize with the city exactly how much to apply for because we really want to make sure we get it this time. We applied last year and we didn’t get it.”

The Community Development Block Grant Program is a state program that provides financial assistance to communities for public facilities and planning activities that address health and safety issues, and reduce the costs of essential community services. Communities statewide compete for funding. Historically, the city has applied for these grants on behalf of nonprofits, said the city planning manager Beth McKibben.

“In late summer we solicit proposals from the community,” she said. “It is my understanding that this year, Housing First is the only entity that has expressed interest in applying for a community development block grant.”

McKibben said an application on behalf on Housing First would likely be more competitive this time around. It’s due in early December.

“My understanding is that some of the things that were found to be deficiencies in their application last year have been rectified. For instance, they have more matching funds this year. Community Development Block Grant likes there to be lots of other funding available,” she said.

In addition to the HUD grant, the Housing First project has received funding from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Juneau Community Foundation and Rasmuson Foundation. The land came from Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority.

Housing First broke ground in May on Allen Court in Lemon Creek and continues to make steady progress. The foundation is in, many of the constructed modules are up and the first wing is nearing completion, said Lovishchuk.

Close to half of the $600,000 HUD grant will go toward building a medical clinic inside the building. Front Street Community Health Center is expected to move there.

The Indian Development Block Grant to Central Council was one of 13 grants totaling just over $7 million that went to Alaska Native organizations. The funding will produce or preserve nearly 70 units of affordable housing and help fund the construction or renovation of several community facilities. Other Southeast grantees are the Organized Village of Saxman and Petersburg Indian Association. Nationally, HUD has awarded a total of $56.5 million in block grant funds to 77 Native American communities across the country.

The Juneau Housing First project is expected to be completed May 2017.

Lisa Phu can be reached at [email protected].

09/13/2016 - 10:09am