SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

RE: Ketchikan is one of the highest taxed
areas in Alaska

By Jerri Taylor-Elkins


April 08, 2018
Sunday PM

Mr. Dial, I am writing in response to your opinion piece posted to Sitnews on April 4, 2018. First let me say that I appreciate your service to our community and the time you took in both writing and encouraging feedback from your constituents. I would like to clarify a few things in regards to your statements about homelessness and the types and number of shelters in Ketchikan.

We have in Ketchikan, WISH (Women in Safe Homes) who s primary focus is taking in women and children in crisis due to domestic violence and sexual assault. They will accept women and children facing homelessness on a short term basis, however their primary mission is NOT homelessness. At present there is no facility in Ketchikan equipped to shelter homeless youth or children.

So in fact there are only two non-profit shelters in Ketchikan whose focus is the homeless citizens. Park Avenue Temporary Home (PATH) is a night time (5pm 9am), 31 bed short stay shelter that does not allow its clients to be under the influence of drugs/alcohol prior to entry.

First City Homeless Services (FCHS) mission is to offer a safe non-judgmental shelter and referrals to local resources. FCHS has two programs that is operates out of the community hall of First United Methodist Church (across the street from the police station).

The FCHS-Day Shelter is open seven days a week for men, women & children. Everyone is welcome so long as they are not a threat to themselves or others. It is open from 8am noon and 1:00pm 4:00pm. The clients are not allowed to consume drugs/ alcohol on premise.

The FCHS-Overnight Warming Center (OWC) is a seasonal shelter open nightly 8pm 6am from October 1 March 31. When clients check in their personal property is bagged and secured until they choose to leave. Clients may walk in until 10pm when the doors are locked and no one enters after this time unless brought by KPD, Emergency Department, EMS or WISH. Should someone choose to leave for any reason, they are not allowed back in that night.

FCHS is a wet shelter , however, not everyone who comes to the DS or OWC are inebriated. People are homeless in Ketchikan for a myriad of reasons: some have lost housing due to divorce, are evicted because they can t afford rent, many locals work seasonally and are without employment during the winter, as well as seniors and people with disabilities who don t have funds for housing, etc.

PATH and FCHS both shelter people, however, they do not duplicate services. One reason there are two shelters is that neither the PATH nor FCHS facilities are large enough or equipped to house all services under one roof.

Now for some background. The Day Shelter has been in existence at its current location for 9 yrs. It s inception was spearheaded by a community wide meeting in March of 2008. FCHS was and remains housed in its current location because no other location has been found nor offered that meets its needs. There have been extensive talks and research put into seeking available and affordable properties for housing the shelter long term. Until such time as a place can be found, the FCHS/OWC Board & Directors in conjunction with the United Methodist Church continue to assess and improve upon the space currently in use. They are currently in the process of remodeling to make the restrooms and shower handicap accessible, at NO EXPENSE to the City/Borough, with grant funding sought by the Board.

The Overnight Warming Center actually began as a pilot project at the Salvation Army during the winter of 2016 in direct response to complaints from businesses and individuals to the City Council/Borough Assembly regarding what they termed the inebriate and homeless problems as they relate to the benches downtown. The pilot program proved unequivocally what we all know, that is, that individuals and families were spending nights on the street because there was no housing. The Salvation Army was unable to accommodate the needs of the OWC long term so the United Methodist Church was approached about the availability of space for use in the evening hours. The members of the church voted unanimously yet again to make this a part of their downtown ministry. Is it the space ideal? No! But it has kept people alive! Is it the intention to have the FCHS & OWC housed there forevermore? Again the answer is a resounding No! But, until such a time as an appropriate permanent place is identified,

I am grateful that the United Methodist Church is willing to make the space home for so many. As a member of the church, I act as one of the liaisons between the congregation and the shelter, in addition to providing support both financially and in volunteer hours. I feel honored to live in a community where people turn concerns into actions and to be a member of a church where people put feet onto their prayers for a better world.

As to your statements concerning the homeless and their impact on tourism, if the current construction in progress downtown is any indication, tourism in the First City is alive and doing quite well! FCHS has had many people from the cruise ships stop in and share a cup of coffee. There are actually financial supporters of the shelter that came directly from such visits. I am not easily convinced that the shelter s current location may be having a profound negative impact on tourism. We would do well to remember that individuals and families who need the assistance of PATH or FCHS are in fact fellow citizens with the same rights as you and I whether or not we may consider their presence as disagreeable or inconvenient.

As one of our representatives on the Borough Assembly, your support for these wonderful organizations and the work that they do would be beneficial. It would behoove you accept this (and the 3 previous) invitations extended to you by FCHS to spend some time in person speaking to the board members, directors and clients of PATH, WISH and FCHS to get a true feel for what they provide and to whom and to become educated on the long hours and arduous journey it has been to get and keep their doors open. In addition, the memorandums of agreement between these organizations, financial contributions and letters of support provided by police, Ketchikan PeaceHealth, KIC and others in the community speak to the positive impact the services of these organizations have had on the lives of people experiencing homelessness.


Jerri Taylor-Elkins
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: I am a retired nurse that now fills her time doing volunteer work through FCHS/OWC.


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received April 07, 2018 - Published April 08, 2018

Related Viewpoint:

letter Ketchikan is one of the highest taxed areas in Alaska By RODNEY DIAL




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