The Anchorage Assembly supports the exit strategy to transition people out of the Sullivan Arena. What happens next?

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 9:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - At Monday night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, members unanimously passed a resolution that supports a new framework to transition people out of the emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, and provide long-term housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Assembly member Meg Zaletel, Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant and senior policy advisor Larry Baker with the city administration talked Tuesday about the next steps for the exit strategy out of the Sullivan Arena. The bottom line is, it looks like it will be a shelter for several more months.

The assembly had previously passed additional funding to continue shelter operations there through the end of December.

“The exit strategy has approximately five pillars,” Zaletel said. “What’s really interesting about that is that all five pillars of that exit strategy — so, single adult homelessness, special population homelessness, medical convalescence, substance misuse treatment with housing, and housing options — can all move in parallel.”

The new plan, which was formed through months of meetings by a negotiation team made up of members from both the assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration, calls for several smaller shelters throughout the city, in conjunction with the several existing privately-run shelters. It also includes the idea for a navigation center.

“The navigation center concept is really key to this total plan, because if we can then bring people in and then we can redirect them to their proper need and proper desires,” Baker said. “That serves the community well.”

But first, they need to find the spaces and locations, which is the next step.

“The next step in the process is sitting down in the room with the facilitated working group and looking more closely at specific facilities and starting to remove facilities from the list,” Constant said. “And then identify specific proposed facilities before bringing them back to the assembly, or if not needed, then allowing third-party funders to join us and take on part of the system as well.”

The city also needs to make sure the process is moving along before a deadline for transitioning out of the Sullivan Arena that has been set for June 2022.

“Speaking with our private partners, continued conversation obviously with the administration about how we can time those projects as simultaneous as possible as to which one is ready to make it go,” Zaletel said. “Leveraging those funding sources I talked about because we do have a deadline, we have a very urgent deadline which is to exit mass care probably by the end of June.”

Constant also said the end of June 2022 deadline was set because that’s when it is anticipated that the federal government will no longer be reimbursing services for mass care from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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