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Non-profit seeks use of vacant hotel

Posted: December 21, 2011 - 9:33am

Recommended prisoners released from Wildwood Correctional Center may soon have the opportunity to received free housing and job training.

The non-profit Christian Ministry Mission plans to use the vacant hotel on the corner of Spur Highway and Main Street Loop in Kenai to house male adults coming out of the prison. The project is called CMM Citadel.

CMM presented its project on Dec. 7 at a Kenai City Council meeting. Ministry director and founder Janna Hancock created a blueprint for the project, but multiple factors, such as its operating budget and offered services, are undetermined.

The project is in its initial stages, and the city of Kenai hasn't received a request for approval.

The vacant hotel, which was previously Katmai Hotel and Kenai Spur Lodge, has 32 units. Hancock said the south side the building facing Spur Highway will house staff as well as local businesses.

Businesses will provide mentoring and job services to the residents housed on the north side of the building, Hancock said.

"There's about 12 units on the north side of the building that would be used for residents, and we wouldn't put anymore than two people in a unit," she said. "But probably for the first year we wouldn't house more than seven males."

A letter of recommendation from a prison chaplain is required along with a letter from the inmate requesting admission to the program and his reasons for doing so, according to CMM's proposal.

A planned community kitchen could offer job training. Workers will gain culinary training and management skills, Hancock said.

And the public pays for meals as they can, she said.

"There's no prices," she said. "It's just a vision, and we don't know if it will work. It doesn't work in every community."

Another business planned for location at the facility is Alaska's Treasures, a jewelry store and repair shop. Owner Robb Jones works out of his home, making jewelry in the winter and selling it in the summer. He said he hopes to help mentor someone with a bit of experience.

"Getting them involved in doing repairs, that would be the main thing I would bring to the project," he said. "There are folks in (prison) that have skills for sure."

Jones began working with CMM three years ago when he helped establish the non-profit's 10 step recovery program, which helps individuals with addictions. He said the program would move to the Citadel if the plans move forward.

Counseling offered by future Citadel Director Crystal Morse and a book and music exchange are among the other businesses planned.

Hancock said she is considering a few locations, but the vacant hotel is the main focus.

Tim Navarre, Kenai City Council member, raised concerns about the project. He said he likes the concept of residents in back and businesses in front, but he unsure about the chosen site.

"I would have to see a full plan and the controls they would put in place to mitigate what that site looks like to the public," he said. "For our tourists, our community, our center town, I don't know if it's the right business plan.

"I honestly don't feel their business plan was complete by any stretch at this point."

The city of Kenai owns the land the vacant hotel sits on, as well as its rear parking lot. Kenai is leasing both parcels of land to Mitak, a limited liability company based out of Kansas.

Mitak owns the building, and the leases aren't due to expire until 2022. Officials can reassign the leases upon approval from city council. CMM would have to buy the building and lease the parcels of land, which are valued at $570,000 and $69,000, according to Kenai Planning and Zoning Department officials. 

Another concern raised by Kenai City Council members is duplication of services. Friendship Mission located in North Kenai provides housing, job training and education to homeless men. Churches, businesses and community members fund it.

Hancock said the likelihood of success for men housed in the Citadel is far greater because transportation is not a factor.

"I was a parole officer for five years," she said. "These men don't have the luxury of going right into employment. Giving them this place in this area, we felt like the location was so much better than being further out of the mix of the community."

Friendship Mission is a Christian-based organization. Residents are required to attend nightly Bible study and services on Sunday and Wednesday.

Hancock's organization is a Christian ministry and it requires a recommendation from a prison chaplain. However, CMM is not about religion, Hancock said.

"The primary difference between (Friendship Mission) and us is we're not about religion," she said. "We believe in reaching the men more as emulating Christ and how he would respond to an individual who is broken, like so many of them are when they come out of prison."

CMM's main facility sits on 10 acres located in Elmdale, Kan. It consists of a five-acre fruit orchard, and a 4,000 square-foot auditorium equipped with a basketball court and a movie theater.

A permanent staff of seven operates the facility, and an average of 30 youths receive services. Youth is the focus in Elmdale. Recently released prisoners would be the focus for the Kenai facility, Hancock said.
Family reconciliation, community networking and urban renewal are among the Citadel's programs.

Hancock said she chose the Kenai area because of established contacts, the close proximity to the prison and the community's need.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

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aspiecelia 12/21/11 - 07:59 pm

This is sad and sickening that the only support people can get when they leave prison is from a group whose goal is Christian indoctrination. The DOC should be providing half-way houses along with support to find jobs and housing for people of all beliefs. The truth is people are so rabidly prejudiced and ignorant about this issue inmates will rarely get jobs or rentals anyway. In fact one of the main issues here is the over charging of crimes, harsh sentences and dumping of inmates on the streets when they are released. Many people should never have been sent to prison to begin with. Some needed mental health care, some needed chemical dependency treatment and young people needed to not be raised in bad situations. Sigh.

analaskancitizen 12/21/11 - 10:55 pm
response to aspiecelia

You might want to reread the article regarding "indoctrination" if you are referring to the newly proposed program. In my opinion, saying that the program would "emulate Christ" would involve treating people in the way in which you would want to be treated. I didn't get the idea that you'd have to take a "right religion" vow to enter or participate.

I think I hear you saying that the current system is sadly lacking and doesn't help in recidivism. That's true and statistics support that. I do believe there are a good number of people who are willing to got the extra mile to help individuals get prepared to reenter the community and be good neighbors. The vast majority of the incarcerated will be getting out and I believe it is in our best interests (even if one only cares about economics) to do what we can to help.

Raoulduke 12/22/11 - 07:34 am
Bad situations?

People make CHOICES.When that choice violates the law.The violator deserves everything they get.Most could not,or would not follow the norm,and took the easier way out.They think.Instead of working for their lively hood.They break the law.Someone who is that weak.I believe.No matter how much help one receives.That type of person will probably go back to jail.There are ex cons who say it is easier than the outside.The ones who think this are LOSERS from birth.I do not have sympathy for any FELON period.

Norseman 12/22/11 - 08:42 am

Every single one of us has choices in life. Every choice you make has consequences. Some decisions we make have good consequences, bad choices will produce negative consequences.

If you look back at human history, you will always find approximately 3-4% of the population are predators or severly lacking in a conscience.

Protecting the rest of the population from these individuals is why we have prisons.

Alaska has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. Taxpayers are tired of seeing tax money spent on negative results.

What I'd like to see is where will the funds come from? State, Federal, Local?
If some church wants to use all of their OWN money to pursue this then fine.

If Federal, State, or Borough money is involved, let's spend that on other things.

jlmh 12/23/11 - 12:58 am
The DOC could be providing

The DOC could be providing this or that, but the fact is that resources are finite. Tax payers would have to fund it if the DOC provided it, and the public just doesn't support those kinds of projects. They tend to choose things like education and road maintenance, which in all reality does benefit more people than post-incarceration programs. After all, the difficulties involved in transitioning out of prison are just part of the consequences of a criminal's choices. Why should society share more of that burden? The Friendship Mission and this new non-profit have chosen to volunteer their efforts and funds this way. If you feel strongly about providing similar programs without religious affiliations, then you are free to develop such a program. But you can't really demand public funds if there isn't public support...

analaskancitizen 12/23/11 - 12:03 pm
CMM Citadel

The fact is that the vast majority of people will get out of prison, with or without someone helping them in the transition. They will be be returning to our communities. It seems to me that even if you only consider "these people" as an economic issue, it makes sense to encourage those who want to increase the odds of success for them. Incarceration is very expensive.

The other fact is that there are a good many people in our community who are willing to, and have already stepped up to look for some helpful solutions. They have already demonstrated their willingness and commitment. It only takes a handful of folks who become productive citizens to save you and me tens of thousands of dollars in a very short time.

I confess that I have friends who are former inmates and I think you might be surprised to know who they are. They did the crime. They paid the time. Now they have families and work and pay taxes and are very good friends. In my opinion, without helping and supportive people on the Outside, this might have been impossible.

My wish for this project is that people will keep an open mind...and continue to ask helpful questions...before condemning it.

cheapersmokes 12/23/11 - 12:06 pm
Best and brightest!

We in this country do not send our best and brightest citizens to prison! Life is all about make them and then have to live with the consequences of them. Most of these people have had years to figure out what they need to do when they get released. Now it is up to them to either change their lives around or end up back behind bars on the public's expense. We should have prison's so bad and tough that they wouldn't ever want to go back there!

Raoulduke 12/23/11 - 02:32 pm

Cheapersmokes-I am in total agreement with you.Have a good Holiday Season.

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