Let's pitch in and help the Glory Hall meet the needs of the homeless - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Let’s pitch in and help the Glory Hall meet the needs of the homeless

By WIN GRUENING

For most Juneau residents, our community is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.  Our magnificent scenery, small footprint, cultural and recreational opportunities and an absence of big city traffic and smog make Juneau highly livable.  But there’s a disturbing reality that begs our attention – now more than ever.

Even with its many advantages, Juneau is not immune from homelessness issues facing many American cities.  This reflects directly on our community, affecting all of us.

Concerned city leaders, individuals and non-profit organizations have tackled this challenge head on – providing an essential social safety net that has long served Juneau’s homeless population. These efforts have forestalled the kind of headline-making mistakes now plaguing many West Coast cities.

This could change in the near future.

State budget cuts to various housing and homeless assistance programs are looming.

The most visible program in our community impacted by these changes is The Glory Hall – currently located in the heart of Juneau’s downtown district.  Established in 1982 as a nonprofit and in its present location since 1994, The Glory Hall has been inaccurately characterized as “just a free meal center” but, in reality, its mission involves much more.

Operating as Juneau Cooperative Christian Ministry dba The Glory Hall, it describes itself as an “emergency shelter, soup kitchen, and care center.”  While providing up to 4,500 free meals every month, its ultimate goal is for patrons to “obtain and maintain permanent housing and self-sufficiency, and/or to live a healthy and productive life.”

The Glory Hall provides meals, emergency shelter, transportation and social service referral assistance, mental health counseling, medical assistance, laundry, showers, as well as volunteer opportunities.

Patrons are expected to pay for shelter services or compensate The Glory Hall through volunteer work.

Governed by a volunteer board of directors, The Glory Hall depends on individual donations, and Federal, state, city or private grants. If currently proposed state budget cuts remain, The Glory Hall will lose 23% of its annual budget.

The Glory Hall is willing to make some tough decisions.  It is examining every facet of its operation to see where savings can be realized while still delivering on its core mission.

The Glory Hall Board took the first step in this process by choosing to relocate nearer to other service agencies in the Mendenhall Valley in a safer, more cost-efficient building.

The Glory Hall’s existing building is expensive to maintain, isn’t handicap-accessible, lacks privacy, and is isolated in the downtown area.  Its location hampers effective social service coordination and transitional opportunities for clients.

The Glory Hall is not expanding – it will continue serving the same number of people – but it will save money and allow The Glory Hall to take advantage of synergies with transitional housing and counseling services nearby.

Much like the successful Housing First facility recently built in Lemon Creek (staffed by The Glory Hall personnel), this project will provide better, more efficient care services for homeless individuals.

As former Mayor Ken Koelsch has observed, this is a win-win for Juneau.

Our community has the financial capacity to provide significant support.  While Juneau is incredibly generous, some social services often struggle for funding. It’s puzzling because the business publication Kiplinger recently listed Juneau as the top small U.S. city with the highest concentration of millionaire households – 1,109 – almost 9% of Juneau’s households.

The Glory Hall building project has raised nearly half of the $300,000 needed by September 1 to secure the land purchase.  It has done this without asking to dip into the CBJ piggy bank.  After securing the land, the Board will have time to marshal funding for building construction.

Contributions are being routed through the Juneau Community Foundation (JCF).  Donations can be mailed to JCF at 315 North Franklin Street, Suite 4, Juneau, Alaska, 99801 or arranged by contacting JCF directly at (907) 523-5450 or info@juneaucf.org.

In 1967, Juneau citizens stepped up to build a new state museum.  Recently, we donated to re-build Project Playground.  Many have contributed generously for a new arts and cultural center.

The new Glory Hall is not a glamorous project to embrace, but our response to this call to action is as much a reflection of who we are as a community as our cultural attractions, parks, and buildings.

Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations.

Donations Welcome

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  • I don’t live in JNU so I don’t have first hand knowledge of the Glory Hole. So if the place is helpful by all means contribute. But I recall an article in the JNU paper I happened to see at the library maybe a year ago & a fellow who stayed there was interviewed about possible budget cuts. I don’t recall exactly his comments but it boiled down to something like people need to support the Glory Hole to help me maintain my lifestyle. He said in the paper words to the effect that if Glory Hole is not funded by government or donations, then he & fellow residents will steal to get what they want/need to support their lifestyle and crime will go up. Like it was just normal…that if you are not given what you want then you steal to get it. That never sat too well with me. Maybe they just interviewed the wrong guy but it was so matter of fact…SOP. Anyway, it’s just what I read in the Juneau Empire a year ago. Maybe it was just a bad story.

    • I don’t recall that story Dave, but do remember a letter to editor from a downtown bar owner who thought it a good idea for the Glory Hall to be moved to the Valley so folks there could see what they (downtown business owners) were experiencing.
      Those patrons have been an eyesore for downtown cruise ship visitors and it’s been a long time coming.

      • A downtown bar owner complaining about social disorder….Priceless!

  • Are you talking about the “Glory Hole?”

    • They changed the name of the place to “Glory Hall.” – sd

      • I met a couple from Juneau who explained that the organization was tired of seeing tourist photos on the net which portrayed the place in a prurient manner, as if people were expected to believe that it’s the local version of Castle Megastore or such. I’m pretty sure the term “glory hole” refers to Juneau’s past as a resource extraction center, though I don’t know if it’s specific to fishing or mining (I’m sure someone out there does know).

        • SR- Yes, the meaning of “glory hole” has changed through time and is now identified with anonymous gay male sex, rather than the mining term is used to be. Awkward for downtown Juneau. -sd

          • I’m surprised that Beaver Sports never changed their name. I remember seeing them portrayed in a similar context in National Lampoon’s “True Facts” section 35 years ago, alongside the usual photos of radiator shops advertising themselves as “the best place in town to take a leak”.

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