Emily Files, KHNS - Haines
Emily Files is a reporter at KHNS in Haines.
It’s hard to get a true sense of how big of a problem homelessness is in Haines. There is no shelter or centralized service tasked with responding to homelessness. Right now, a patchwork of local organizations helps out people in need. But even they aren’t sure how large the problem is and what the solution should be.
Haines doesn’t have a shelter or official service for people who are homeless. There are local organizations that do what they can to help – a lot of the time that means providing a one-way ferry ticket to Juneau, the closest town with a homeless shelter. So what happens when a homeless couple shows up in Haines, determined to find a place to stay? That happened with 48-year-old Roger and 45-year-old Judy Kley, who slept in shelters and on the streets for three years and just recently found a home in Haines.
Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines is the only craft distillery in Southeast. When the business started, distilleries in the state were not allowed to sell their spirits on-site. But a law passed earlier this year removes that restriction.
Each fall, thousands of bald eagles flock to a stretch of the Chilkat River about 20 miles north of Haines. The birds fly there for a late chum salmon run. It’s thought to be the largest gathering of eagles in the world. Dozens of people travel to witness the raptors each year, filling up almost every hotel room in Haines.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are gaining more rights and acceptance throughout the country. Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska.
While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ non-profits or advocacy groups in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems. One such group is called “Transgendered Ketchikan.”
A black bear was in first place for a short time during one of the races at the Region V Cross Country meet Saturday in Ketchikan. Teams from around Southeast Alaska faced off for the chance to compete in the state championship. But the event took a chaotic turn when the first race was interrupted by a bear.
There are no restaurants in the 500-person town of Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island. But that looks like it’s going to change. The Southeast Island School District, which serves Thorne Bay and several other rural schools, is buying a vacant restaurant from the city. They’re going to use food from school greenhouses and a bakery to provide fresh meals for residents and business experience for students.
The Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales Island encompasses nine small, rural schools. Last year, the district implemented a four-day school week in all but one school. It worked so well that every school is running on a Monday through Thursday schedule this year.
There are more than 100 people employed at Ketchikan’s Vigor Industrial Shipyard. Out of all of them, Cat Wong might have the most unusual story about how she got there. The 25-year-old is a pipe fitter and welder. She was born in the U.S., but grew up with her family in Singapore. When she was 21, Cat made an unusual choice, and moved to Ketchikan.
There have been some young faces in recent weeks at the Ketchikan shipyard. This spring, Vigor Industrial started a new job training course for high schoolers. Three Ketchikan High School students have stuck with the program. For one of them, working at the shipyard has been especially meaningful.
About 850,000 cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Ketchikan this season. And the first mega ship of the year – Holland Cruise Line’s Volendam – docked in the city yesterday. The cruise started in Japan and Ketchikan was the final stop before the cruise ends in Vancouver.
You might not expect an ancient Aboriginal instrument from Australia to find its way to Alaska. But walk around downtown Ketchikan on a warm day and you may hear 15-year-old Kinani Halvorsen playing her didgeridoo. She’s played the unusual instrument for three years. And she hopes to bring the didgeridoo into the mainstream band practice.
Governor Sean Parnell is warning that Ketchikan’s lawsuit against the state over school funding might make him and lawmakers reluctant to fund Ketchikan projects. In a visit to the community Thursday, Parnell discussed the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s lawsuit, which argues that municipalities in Alaska should not have to pay a local contribution for public education. If the suit is successful, it could hold the state accountable for hundreds of millions more in education spending and Parnell predicted potential repercussions.