KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The First City Homeless Services provided its 2021 annual activity report to the City of Ketchikan and it is attached to the Ketchikan City Council’s Aug. 19 meeting agenda.
First City Homeless Services provides a Day Shelter at 400 Main St. and a seasonally operated Overnight Warming Center at 632 Park Ave.
According to information from the City of Ketchikan manager’s office, FCHS received a $71,000 Community Agency Grant from the city in 2021. The report is a requirement tied to that grant, FCHS Board Member Jessica Pilcher noted in the document’s introduction.
The day shelter operates seven days per week year-round, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Participants are offered a morning meal seven days per week, and a “brown bag” lunch on Saturdays. Holiday meals also were served on days that The Salvation Army were closed.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Pilcher reported, the day shelter served 111 men and 58 women. Ethnicities represented were 51% Alaska Native/Native American, 48% White and 1.3% Black/African American.
The ages of those served were 33% between 26 to 40 years old, 32% between 41 to 51 years old and 28% who were older than 55. The remainder were 25 years old or younger.
Out of those served, seven reported that they had served in the military.
There were a total of 5,936 sign-ins at the day shelter during that time period, with an average of 97 individuals signing in monthly.
Day shelter hours in fall 2020 were extended due to a delay in start-up operations of the warming center, and federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security funds supported the costs of the extended hours.
Amenities that the day shelter offers clients include basic hygiene supplies such as razors, toothbrushes and feminine products; basic first aid supplies and assistance with medications; computer and internet access; referrals to local resources for health care, substance abuse and domestic abuse programs and legal assistance; and housing and food assistance.
Amenities that the warming center on Park Avenue provided between Jan. 1 and May 15 included three bathrooms and one shower, and laundry facilities. A fourth bathroom with ADA accessibility is under construction. The warming center opened for the first time in December.
The warming center was open seven days per week from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The facility was able to house up to 23 individuals per night, adhering to social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the coldest nights, the warming center provided warm, safe shelter for up to 29 individuals. Participants were provided with a cot, pillow, bedding and a storage box for their belongings.
Also during the time period that the warming center was open, staff welcomed individuals from other providers including 19 times for the Ketchikan Police Department, seven times for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, four times for Ketchikan Fire Department Emergency Medical Services personnel and one time for another local shelter.
The OWC, according to Pilcher, served 55 men and 22 women while it was open in 2021. There were 55% who were White and 45% who were Alaska Native/Native American. Clients aged 55 and older comprised 37% of those served, and those aged 26 to 40 and 41 to 51 each comprised 30% of the clientele. Those aged 18 to 25 comprised a bit fewer than 3% of those served.
Five of the individuals served reported having served in the military.
There were 2,572 sign-ins at the warming center from Jan. 1 to May 15, with average sign-ins of 42 individuals per month. The average number of clients served per night ranged from a low of 15 in May to a high average of 23 in March.
There were 45% of clients who stayed at the warming center for 14 or more nights per month.
Acting Port and Harbors Director Mark Hilson spoke about the new warming center at the council’s regular meeting of July 15. He said that the facility, which is undergoing an expansion, is tentatively expected to open again on Oct. 15. The expansion is expected to be fully operational in March.
There have been several discussions recently among City Council members regarding how to best support people experiencing homelessness, and in Thursday’s regular meeting, a motion to approve the request for technical assistance from the Alaska Mental Health Trust for the purpose of conducting a homelessness assessment unanimously was approved by the council.
City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen at Thursday’s meeting told council members that the hope is, through the new assessment in partnership with the Mental Health Trust, a concrete five- or 10-year plan will be created to better offer resources for those experiencing homelessness and/or addictions.