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City alcohol tax helps pay for homeless camp cleanup crews

Cleanup has started at Anchorage homeless camps.
Cleanup has started at Anchorage homeless camps.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 3:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Clean up season has begun in Anchorage, and that includes camps in the city used by people experiencing homelessness. The city says the effort this year may be even greater now that Anchorage’s new alcohol tax will help fund bigger crews.

Parks and Trails Safety Superintendent Mike Braniff said the city has hired 20 people to do the job, and that 10 of them will work year-round.

“The cleanup effort has really ramped up,” Braniff said. “We will be cleaning up seven days a week, and year-round going forward. So, I think that’s the biggest thing, and I think folks will see the difference.”

Braniff said Anchorage Parks and Recreation has a new division called “healthy spaces”. In addition to working on homeless camps, healthy spaces crews will clean up garbage in public areas like roadways or parks.

One of the first efforts of the season is taking place at a large camp in Mountain View. On day eight of what is anticipated to be a 12-day project, Braniff said crews had already removed more than 20,000 pound of trash from the camp that had as many as 60 people living there throughout the winter. Braniff said workers from the Anchorage Health Department were in contact with campers prior to the abatement, encouraging people to go to shelters or take advantage of other services. Ultimately, he said, where they land is up to them.

“Some people will fall back on friends and family, some people will enter the shelter system, and some people will move to other camps,” he said.

Braniff encourages people who see camps to report them at the municipal website in the #AncWorks section. Trash that needs to be removed can be reported there, too. He said scheduling camps for cleanup takes several factors into account.

“We factor in public safety, public health, ecological damage in deciding where to go next,” he said. “There are certainly a lot of places we could go next, and we have to decide where.”

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