The Shelter Development Workgroup meets on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 at Love, INC in Soldotna to discuss emergency shelters and transitional housing for the peninsula. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

The Shelter Development Workgroup meets on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 at Love, INC in Soldotna to discuss emergency shelters and transitional housing for the peninsula. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Shelter Workgroup discusses transitional housing and cold-weather shelters for the peninsula

The transitional housing project is based on a housing-first approach to combating homelessness

Members of the community gathered for a Shelter Development Workgroup at Love, INC on Thursday to discuss expanding shelter access across the peninsula.

Love, INC Executive Director Leslie Rohr led the meeting, and laid out two major priorities for the workgroup going forward: To create emergency cold-weather shelters by coordinating with churches in the community, and to acquire a location that could function as transitional housing for homeless families. Both of these services are currently lacking on the Kenai Peninsula, with shelter access limited to places like the LeeShore Center, which focuses on women experiencing domestic violence, and Friendship Mission, which only serves men.

The goal of organizing an emergency cold-weather shelter service could be accomplished soon, Rohr said.

The policies and procedures created by Anchorage’s emergency cold-weather shelter system have been reviewed by Love, INC and adapted to fit a model that would work on the peninsula. The plan is for a group of churches to open their doors and serve as emergency shelter when the temperature drops below a certain point, which Rohr said would be 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The churches involved would share the responsibility on a rotating list, and the list would be posted publicly so that people can know which church will act as the cold-weather shelter on any given night.

Rohr confirmed that at least one local church has signed on to be a part of the rotation, and another church has offered a bus that could potentially be used as fixed-route transportation to and from the shelter locations. Four volunteers would be needed each night, two male and two female, to check people in and out and to stay awake through the night. To that end, Rohr said that fliers will be sent out soon announcing training for potential volunteers.

As far as supplies, Love, INC was able to collect a surplus of blankets and sleeping mats from this year’s Project Homeless Connect, but more will still need to be acquired and donated.

Once the cold-weather shelters are operational, members of the workgroup said they would expect around 30 individuals to use the shelter on any given night. While there is no definite timeline on getting the cold-weather shelter service up and running, Rohr said that she is optimistic about making it happen by next winter.

The other goal of the workgroup is to establish a transitional housing facility for homeless families in the area where none currently exists. At Thursday’s meeting, Rohr emphasized that this goal still faces a few hurdles. The workgroup has looked at several properties around Kenai and Soldotna as potential locations for the facility but has not yet made any final decision regarding location. Rohr said that they have begun reaching out to real estate agents who can assist with finding an ideal building or lot to acquire.

Bryan Taylor, associate planner for economic development, attended the workgroup meeting as a representative of the City of Soldotna and said that the city is ready to work with the group on discussing zoning regulations and any statutes or ordinances that the transitional housing would need to follow once a location is established.

The workgroup’s transitional housing project is based on a housing-first approach to combating homelessness that organizations around the country have adopted in recent years,

Public health nurse Sherra Pritchard said focusing on addressing housing issues as the first step is based on the notion that housing is a social determinate of health. “Water, shelter, food. If you don’t have that, it’s hard to worry about anything else,” said Pritchard.

During Thursday’s meeting, Rohr cited data received from Juneau’s housing-first initiative that illustrates the effectiveness of the approach. One of the most noticeable impacts was on the use of public services. Tracked over a six-month period before and after transitional housing was established, there were 230 fewer ER visits by homeless individuals and 495 fewer contacts with the Juneau police department, according to data compiled by the University of Alaska’s School of Social Work.

The next planned meeting for the workgroup is on April 4, and in the meantime the group will continue scouting locations for transitional housing and training volunteers for the emergency cold-weather shelters.


Contact Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com


More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department
3 charged after Kenai beach assault

Video evidence of the incident and multiple calls from concerned citizens led to the arrests.

A sign announcing the closure of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools at K-Beach Elementary can be seen on March 26, 2020, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
School board to vote on 1st day for students

Smart Start plan for KPBSD will be sent to Department of Education by the end of this month

Shawn Dick of Talkneetna carries a fresh catch out of the water while dipnetting on the Kenai Beach on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting opens in Kenai

Dipnetters see quiet 1st day, with moderate catch

COVID-19. (Image courtesy the CDC)
49 new COVID-19 cases reported

Seven of the new resident cases reported Thursday were identified on the Kenai Peninsula.

Skylar Giordano cuts Ryan Huerta’s hair at RD’s Barber Shop in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, July 9, 2020. RD’s is one of the 186 local businesses and nonprofits in Kenai that already received financial assistance through the City of Kenai’s Grant Program. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai boosts local economy with grants

The city has distributed $1.9 million in grants to 186 businesses and nonprofits.

Hospital adds new COVID-19 rooms

The hospital has made several changes or modifications to its facilities.

Salmon Run Series returns

Running races now feature masks, pods and elbow taps

A Homer Volunteer Fire Department emergency medical technician, left, assists a person who was involved in a boat capsizing, center, as they walk up the load-launch ramp on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, at the Homer Harbor in Homer, Alaska. The crew of the F/V Captain Cook helped rescue the person. The crew of the F/V Casino rescued the other two people who were aboard the 14-foot skiff when it capsized near the entrance of China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
1 dead, 2 rescued after boat capsizes near China Poot Bay

A 14-foot skiff carrying three people overturned near Gull Island in the mouth of China Poot Bay.

Most Read