Community council approves measure opposing mayor’s plan for a mass homeless shelter

Homeless tent in downtown Anchorage
Homeless tent in downtown Anchorage
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 10:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Thursday, members of the University Area Community Council voted to move forward with a resolution to oppose Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s plan for a large-capacity homeless shelter.

The proposed 400-person navigation center is set to house people experiencing homelessness. It would be would be located off Tudor Road and Elmore Road, near the former Anchorage Police Department headquarters.

Bronson is asking the Anchorage Assembly for $15 million for the purchase and construction of the shelter. His team has said buying the structure alone will cost around $5.3 million.

The University Area Community Council met Thursday evening to discuss a resolution opposing the mayor’s plan. Its members approved moving forward with the resolution, with other members continuing on and refining its language later in the meeting.

“Timing is a really critical issue here,” said Council President Paul Stang. “As we mentioned briefly, the reason it’s critical is the Sullivan (Arena) is emptying out, and the idea they have apparently of somehow magically they are going to build a building, gonna furnish it, put all the utilities in, and do everything needed, and it’s going to be up and operating in a few months. I don’t know if any of you have any experience with construction, but things don’t work that way.”

People in surrounding neighborhoods have mixed feelings about it.

“I was in on the plan. I thought the police department was going to, I guess, I thought they were going to be next door, so I thought, well that’s perfect,” said Wendy Alward, a resident of College Gate since 1996. “I thought, well the police department will be right there, that’s good, so they kind of keep everything in check. And then I learned that the police department was going to be downtown so that changes it a little bit for me.”

The Anchorage Police Department is no longer at its former headquarters and has been located in downtown Anchorage for some time. The site of the proposed shelter is currently being used to store hundreds of vehicles that are considered evidence in criminal cases. That storage lot would need to be relocated if the Bronson administration’s proposal went forward.

Karen Cowles who just moved back to Alaska, but prior to moving had lived here for 25 years, said the Bronson administration is rushing into things. She is in favor of the shelter, however.

“It’s so fast putting (it) together that there’s not enough time about design, who and where and what,” she said. “But to build a good homeless shelter I think is awesome.”

The Bronson administration’s written appropriation request for $15 million is expected to be filed by Friday.

Council members say they plan to give the resolution to the assembly, the mayor’s office, and the Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s Office on Friday.

READ MORE: Mayor Bronson asks Anchorage Assembly to approve $15 million appropriation for ‘navigation center’

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