SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Homeless Shelter Needs Community Support
By Marie L. Monyak


February 03, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - If you're an old time Ketchikan resident, you may recall that the Public Health Clinic used to be across the street from the American Legion at 628 Park Avenue. In the early 1980's that building became the Ketchikan Homeless Shelter and remains so today.

The wood and stone building is hardly noticeable unless you read the sign on the door that reads, Park Avenue Temporary Home. The City of Ketchikan owns both building and land and in turn, donates it for use as a shelter.

jpg Ketchikan Homeless Shelter

Ketchikan Homeless Shelter
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Without the generosity of the City, those who find themselves in dire straits, down on their luck or in a transition period would have no where else to go in Ketchikan. Unlike larger cities and towns, Ketchikan doesn't have alleys crowded with the homeless living in cardboard boxes or tent cities on the outskirts of town, all thanks to the homeless shelter.

According to Gary Boatwright, Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Homeless Shelter, "Our annual operating budget is $50,000. Every February we receive a yearly grant from the City of Ketchikan for $30,000 of which approximately $18,000 goes to KPU for utility payments." The balance of the operating budget must come from private donations or grants.

Just recently the shelter received $2800 from a Community Impact Grant through the United Way of Southeast Alaska to replace much needed bunk beds and two years ago a State grant helped buy new kitchen appliances and cabinets.

Boatwright said, "Our manager is paid just above minimum wage because we can't afford more. He's a wonderful man named Ken Levy, he's been our resident manager for the past three years and he does an outstanding job."

"Ken's [Levy] job isn't easy. He works seven days a week and has to deal with people every day that have emotional problems, mental illness, financial or health problems. It's a very stressful job and we're grateful to have him."

The shelter has the capacity to house a total of 26 people. There are three separate dorm rooms, two for men and one for women. "At any given time our population is usually 80 to 90 percent male," Boatwright stated.

The normal length-of-stay policy is five nights and a guest may not return unless he or she has been gone at least one night. "Naturally we have a higher occupancy in the summer months because of the transients that come from down South," Boatwright stated. "In winter we tend to be a bit more flexible on our time limit policy because we not only have the space but we get to know the tenants and their particular problem or situation. If we know a person needs a little more time to get back on their feet, we're willing to be flexible."

If a guest has found employment they are required to pay $3 a night and the shelter may extend their stay until they have earned the funds necessary to obtain their own housing. Board approval is required for any stay over one month.

There are still more rules that the tenants must abide by. There is a prerequisite that all guests must sign up for a cleaning chore as a condition of occupancy. Although the furniture is noticeable worn, all the common areas; kitchen, restrooms, day room, laundry room and showers are noticeable clean and clutter free.

The doors are locked and all tenants must be out of the shelter by 9 AM, presumably to seek employment, check in with job service, veteran's aid or other social service agencies designed to help the individual become self sufficient. The shelter does not reopen until 5 PM and all guests must be signed in by 10 PM when the doors are locked.

The Homeless Shelter is in need of support from the community. Boatwright explained, "Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and the like, are a huge expense by the end of the year. "The cost of home heating fuel comes out of our budget and with the high cost of fuel now, we have less money for supplies. "We need a steady income on a monthly basis to pay for these types of expenses. We have one sponsor that faithfully donates $50 every month. That kind of support is invaluable."

It isn't just money though; the shelter can also use volunteers, anyone with expertise in the field of home repair. Carpenters, painters, and electricians can assist with the upkeep of the building.

Like any home, the shelter has carpeting, draperies and couches that are worn or have become soiled beyond cleaning and need to be replaced. Donations of furniture and household goods are always welcomed.

Everyone in the community has something to donate whether it be time, money, used furniture or even books and board games for the day room. With spring cleaning right around the corner we can all find something that can be put to good use by those less fortunate than ourselves.

Donations may be sent to Ketchikan Homeless Shelter PO Box 9426 Ketchikan AK 99901 or dropped off at the shelter at 628 Park Avenue after 5 PM.


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at

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