Anchorage holds listening sessions on proposed shelter at heart of city’s plan to address homelessness

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 9:15 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Municipality of Anchorage held the first of two listening sessions on April 13 to gather public input on the proposed shelter and navigation center that’s part of a larger plan to address homelessness.

The listening session gave the public an opportunity to learn about the center, and have questions answered by municipal officials.

According to the municipality, the COVID-19 pandemic and untreated mental health issues are just two problems that have contributed to higher numbers of people experiencing homelessness. The increase in displaced residents has lead to homeless camps popping up more and more frequently, which leads to negative outcomes in neighborhoods across Anchorage.

Adam Trombley, the executive director of Community Development, spoke on issues coming from the surge.

“There’s a tremendous amount of vulnerable population out on the streets. It’s not good for those individuals, it’s not good for our city, it’s not good for business,” he said.

The 200-bed shelter, with additional surge capacity to house 130 more, is a central part of the city’s larger plan to provide more comprehensive housing for those experiencing homelessness in Anchorage. The municipality has run an emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena since early in the pandemic, but members of the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration have since settled on a plan to transition people out of the arena and into several smaller shelters, with a target deadline of the end of June.

Bronson’s administration initially approached the assembly with a proposal for a larger, 500-bed facility, but its members rejected that plan over objections about cost and financing.

After using a third-party facilitated process, the assembly members and administration compromised on a new plan that combines one larger shelter and navigation center with a handful of smaller shelters targeted to help specific populations, such as those with medical needs.

The shelter and navigation center is slated to go near the intersection of Elmore and Tudor Roads, close to the location of the originally proposed mass shelter. Bronson’s administration has submitted a funding request in the form of a resolution for $8.2 million to the assembly, which is set to be voted on later this month.

Wednesday’s listening session showed viewpoints from all directions.

“Let’s not fight over where we put it, let’s just try and get this going,” one member of the public said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and I think it needs to be taken care of.”

Another person testified based off his experience living next to a shelter previously.

“I was next to the shelter for 40 years. It was a living hell for me,” he said. “It took my religion, it took my marriage, it took my business, and it was terrible.”

The facility will provide more than just housing, according to the municipality. Officials say it will provide mental health and addiction resources, and access to case managers and health services. These assets have the potential to tackle homelessness at the source to stop the cycle from continuing. All this planning is going to take some time.

“We’re not so much in a rush to get it done as much as we’re making sure we’re going to do it in the right way so that the community feels safe and comfortable with what’s happening,” Trombley said.

The next listening session will be held April 28. All members of the public are invited. The listening sessions will also be broadcast live on the mayor’s Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo pages.

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