Sitka starts site prep for small cabins to house homeless

After years of work and planning, site preparation is underway for the cabins to house Sitka’s homeless people. The plan is to build a dozen small cabins at the end of Jarvis Street, about a mile east of the downtown waterfront.

The Sitka Homeless Coalition’s fundraising has exceeded expectations, SEARHC health educator Doug Osborne said at the Rotary Club meeting Aug. 2. The project also got a boost Aug. 2 with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s announcement that she has added $1 million for the project to the federal appropriations bill now under consideration in the Senate.

Previous efforts to shelter Sitka’s homeless haven’t gotten as far as this one, Osborne said. “In the past, four different community groups came together to establish a shelter and none were successful,” he said.

The coalition has researched dozens of buildings for a potential winter shelter, but none worked out. “It became clear that a new approach would be needed,” Osborne said.

The coalition settled on the idea of building 12 small cabins in a planned development on Alaska Mental Health Trust land at the northern end of Jarvis Street, he said. The project kicked off last September when the Sitka Health Summit made ending homelessness in Sitka a community goal. Fundraising was launched in October. The initial goal was $20,000.

“We reached that goal really quickly,” Osborne said. All told, fundraising efforts have pulled in $130,000, with the largest single amount coming from Sitka Tribe of Alaska. As suggested by the tribe, the housing project will be named Hítx’i Sáani, or the Little Houses.

Plans call for all the cabins to have running water for a sink and toilet.

Osborne said the Juneau Community Foundation has found that shelter for homeless people reduces hospitalizations. “This is important. Every community that has homelessness is going to pay in one way or another. We can build facilities like that, or we can pay in a much, much more dehumanizing way.”

The goal is 12 units with a residential unit for a live-in manager, “somebody who’s there and can help connect people to services and just make sure that things are running smoothly for everybody,” Osborne said.

 

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