Anchorage Assembly, administration team unveil new plan to tackle homelessness

Anchorage City Hall.
Anchorage City Hall.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Members of the Anchorage Assembly and a team from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration have unveiled a new joint plan to address homelessness in the city after weeks of working as a group with a third-party facilitator.

The assembly committed this summer to using an outside facilitator to help it come to agreement with the mayor’s administration on both short-and long-term housing solutions for the city’s homeless population.

The Committee on Housing and Homelessness met Tuesday to go over a proposed plan to transition people out of the emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, called the Sullivan Arena mass care exit strategy and long-term intervention.

The proposed plan would establish several smaller shelters and housing opportunities throughout the city, rather than one mass facility, as had been proposed by the city administration previously.

Key parts of the proposal include a 200-bed facility for single adults that would have additional beds to handle winter surge, about 200 beds for elders, women, children, LGBTQ people and couples, about 150 beds for medical convalescence, and 68 beds specifically for substance misuse treatment. The plan also suggests utilizing the city’s several existing homeless shelters, which include the Brother Francis Shelter and Gospel Rescue Mission.

The proposal also calls more more than 300 units of permanent supportive housing located throughout the community, for homeless people who are also working.

“This is a multiphased approach, a multistep plan, to be able close mass care as that time ends once we get toward the end of COVID, but also make real investments into our community towards the solution for homelessness which is housing,” said assembly member Meg Zaletel, a member of the facilitated team.

The proposed plan between the mayor’s administration and assembly also aims to help homeless residents on an individual level, to help them get the care they need.

“We’re settling on an approach that provides a navigation center, which the administration strongly desires, and also several areas in town where we will provide targeted services to to individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant.

For example, they would be able to offer substance abuse treatment, housing for people with disabilities and the medically fragile population.

Some of the locations the committee is looking at for shelters include the Johnson’s Tire on Denali Street, the old Pacific Northern Academy building, and a few other locations. For the 200-bed facility for single adults, suggested locations are the site near the intersection of Tudor Road and Elmore Road, which Bronson’s administration had originally pitched as a place for a mass shelter, or a separate site on Bragaw Street.

Exact details on the multiple smaller shelters have not yet been finalized. The assembly and administration are also looking to the community for help.

“So we’re going to continue working on the facilitated process where we’re going to hone in on numbers,” Constant said. “We’re releasing a request for information to the public tomorrow which will ask the question, ‘do you have a site that might be viable in a system of services?’ So that we haven’t just addressed what we think is available, but we also hear from members of the public.”

Most are happy to finally have a proposed plan in place.

“To have something right now that we can actually put in our hands and look at and read what the goal is, is really going to be helpful for everybody and we certainly have a lot of details to fill in there,” said assembly member Crystal Kennedy. “Certainly, there’s going to be a lot of questions about funding.”

The proposed plan shows several different private and public funding sources the city will pursue, including from the CARES Act, the city’s alcohol tax and Medicaid reimbursements.

The committee plans to introduce a resolution at the assembly’s next meeting, and put it up for public hearing and debate possibly on Oct. 27.

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