Mariya Lovishchuk stands in one of the dorm rooms at the Glory Hole. The shelter has provided more than 1,858 beds and more than 12,317 meals so far in 2009. The shelter also provides bus tokens, food boxes, laundry and shower facilities.The Empty Bowls fundraiser will allow the Glory Hole to continue to provide food and shelter for Juneau's hungry and homeless.
Story last updated at 4/22/2009 - 12:03 pm
JUNEAU - Not everyone is fortunate enough to have their next meal guaranteed, and not everyone knows what it is like to be hungry. However, hunger and homelessness are issues that are prevalent across the nation and Juneau is not immune. And this is not the easiest place to be homeless, considering our elements, said Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director of the Glory Hole.
The Glory Hole has been providing services to the homeless population of Juneau for almost 30 years. Located downtown, it is a place where the hungry and homeless can find food, shelter and other necessities.
In 2008, the Glory Hole served 60,097 meals and provided 9,875 beds as well as other services to men, women and children in need. As of March 31, they have served 12,317 meals and 1,858 beds in 2009. They also provide services such as laundry, showers, food boxes and bus tokens.
Lovishchuk has been working at the Glory Hole since January. She is currently in the process of preparing for their annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on April 26 at Centennial Hall.
Everyone who purchases a ticket to the event will have a chance to pick out a bowl that has been handmade by someone in the community. They will then stand in line as they wait to be served with soup, bread and a cookie.
"It is a symbolic way to emulate what a homeless person in the shelter has to go through every day," Lovishchuk said. "They can't just get food. They have to stand in line, sometimes three times a day, sometimes to just get a snack."
Bowls have been donated by several local groups and individuals, including the Canvas and Jeremy Kane's ceramics class at the University of Alaska Southeast. The class has donated over 250 bowls. Tongass Turners provided wooden bowls made out of local wood. Some of the bowls are so beautiful, Lovishchuk said she is having problems giving them up.
The event will also feature a silent auction with items donated by local businesses including Rainbow Foods, Annie Kaill's, The Jewelry Box, Once In A Blue Moose, Urban Eskimo, Déjà Vu, Harley Davidson, The Bear's Lair, Hangar on the Wharf, Paradise Café and others.
Other supporters include Flint Hills, Alaska Seafood Processors Association, Goldbelt Corporation, Harri's Plumbing, North Pacific Erectors, Theatre in the Rough, Valley Lumber, Dr. Kristen Cox, Commercial Signs and Printing, the Rotary Club and many other individuals and organizations.
Music will be provided by Collette Costa and others, and a film about homelessness will be shown.
Empty Bowls is the shelter's biggest fundraiser, Lovishchuk said. In 2008, there were about 400 attendees.
"This year we are going to try and make it be a little bit more thought-provoking," Lovishchuk said. "I really think that people don't really understand what hunger is. Numbers of the hungry are increasing, so it is our duty to bring more awareness to the issue. It will still be a very fun social event, also."
The shelter's patrons range from young to old, many of whom are children and families, Lovishchuk said.
"Even in Juneau we have people from the elementary schools and high schools and families come in here who are living in their cars," Lovishchuk said. "I want people to see that anybody can be homeless, not just people who you see downtown."
The Glory Hole's mission is to provide food, shelter and compassion to achieve physical and spiritual well-being for those most in need.
Currently, 67 percent of the shelter's funding comes from community and individual donations. The rest of the money comes from state and city funds and from private foundations.
In addition to Lovishchuk, the Glory Hole is staffed by six cooks, a shelter manager, an intern from the Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC) and a mental health provider from the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Almost every dinner is cooked by a volunteer group, and volunteers are always needed to serve meals and perform other duties.
"There are a lot of services in Juneau for the homeless, but they are so spread out that it's hard to figure out how to access them, especially if you have no place to stay," Lovishchuk said. "If you are homeless and have all these problems, it seems insurmountable because there's just so many of them, but if you can break it down one by one by one, then it becomes easier."
Lovishchuk is hoping to raise the funds to hire a social worker at the shelter. That person would be available to assist patrons in finding housing and employment and help them take advantage of other resources that may be difficult for them to find on their own.
"A lot of times, people just need someone to listen to them and tell them if what they're thinking is a good idea or a bad idea," Lovishchuk said.
In the meantime, the Glory Hole is working with the Juneau Homeless Coalition to create a book for the homeless with basic information about available resources and how to access them.
Lovishchuk also has plans to start a community garden that will be located on the property behind the shelter as well as on the roof.
Tickets to Empty Bowls are $30 and can be purchased at the Glory Hole, Hearthside Books, or by phone at 586-4159.
For more information about the Glory Hole, visit feedjuneau.org.