What others say: Youth homeless shelter provides vital service

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2014 5:55pm
  • Opinion

Along with melting snow, spring this year brought the opening of a long-awaited community resource: a shelter aimed at providing housing for the Interior’s homeless youths. On April 4, Fairbanks Youth Advocates celebrated the official opening of its new facility, known as The Door.

Officials at FYA said The Door arose out of an unfilled need in Fairbanks. Since the Fairbanks Native Association closed a similar facility nearly a decade ago, there had been no shelter options for homeless teenagers. Although many were able to find shelter with friends or family members, harsh Fairbanks winters made the societal issue a safety concern that couldn’t be ignored.

There are a surprising number of homeless teens in Fairbanks, though exact figures are hard to pin down. When FYA was drawing up plans for The Door, a Street Outreach and Advocacy Programs official estimated that about 800 youths in the area have no permanent residence.

Without basic needs like food and shelter addressed, more problems follow. Homeless youths are vastly less likely to graduate or even attend high school, and without a stable source of income many turn to petty crimes like shoplifting to provide the things they need or want. Those crimes in turn make it more difficult to find stable employment or housing, deepening both their cycle of homelessness and the costs society incurs in dealing with them.

The Door’s goal isn’t just to provide shelter. The facility and its volunteers work to help connect the youth they serve with resources to stabilize their housing situation, find jobs, or continue their education. They provide food, hygiene items, opportunities for recreation and positive activities.

While their new facility was under construction, FYA sponsored a temporary overnight shelter for 16 months in the basement of First Presbyterian Church downtown, serving close to 160 young people in need of a place to stay during that time. That shelter operated only during overnight hours, as church members used the building during the day. The Door, by comparison, operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Like the youths who take shelter there, The Door’s basic needs have been met. Construction finished late last year, and state permits to operate came this spring. But the facility is needs items to provide further help, like clothing, food for the pantry, and various durable goods. You can check the FYA web page at www.fairbanksyouthadvocates.org to see the list of current needs.

Sometimes, when shelters like The Door are under discussion, budget-minded community members will express concern over their costs — even when, as in the case of FYA’s plan, the facility is financed not by local tax dollars but state block grants. Those concerns are legitimate, and an eye must always be kept on budgets to guard against waste. But it’s worthwhile, too, to include in that calculation the costs to the community of the facility’s absence. In the case of The Door, there is great value in changing the trajectories of young people who might otherwise become a burden both to the health of the community and a drain on its financial resources.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

June 28

More in Opinion

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.

This photo shows the trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
Alaska Voices: The permanent fund has been taking care of Alaskans for 45 years

It’s the largest sovereign wealth fund in the nation, the pride of Alaska and this month we celebrate its 45th anniversary.

Dr. Tom Hennessy, MD, MPH (Courtesy)
Voices of the Peninsula: Don’t take medical advice from politicians, athletes or social media

Evidence leads to consensus among medical doctors: Vaccines are the best way to prevent infection.

The Entrance to the University of Alaska Southeast. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The University of Alaska is the state’s most important resource

Together, let’s break the record for donor participation.