Anchorage Assembly holds work session ahead of vote on funding for proposed homeless shelter, navigation center

Anchorage Assembly members and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration met to discuss funding for the proposed homeless shelter and navigation center.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:38 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Assembly members and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration met for a work session at City Hall on Friday where they discussed reappropriating money for the construction of the proposed adult homeless shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.

At the start of the meeting, a presentation from Bronson’s administration briefly outlined the 200-bed shelter, with additional surge capacity to house 130 more near Tudor and Elmore Roads.

The city is requesting $8.2 million through a resolution that would reappropriate $4.9 million from the Areawide General Capital Improvement Projects Fund, appropriate $1.3 million from the fund for alcohol sales tax revenue and appropriate $2 million as a restricted contribution from the Alaska Community Foundation.

With $800,000 already approved by the assembly for design of the facility, and $8.2 million in funding being requested, paying for the estimated design and construction cost comes out to $9 million. The request for funding is on the agenda for the next assembly meeting on April 26. A substitute resolution has also been introduced that would slightly alter the funding appropriation, which assembly members will consider during their meeting.

The shelter and navigation center is at the heart of the city’s larger plan to address homelessness, which also includes a number of smaller shelters that would serve populations with specific needs.

“We’re a few days before theoretically, approval. I mean I can’t imagine this getting approved with the lack of information at this point,” assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said during the work session. “... Do you really think a Tuesday vote on this is even remotely possible given the lack of information?”

Quinn-Davidson pushed for more information during the meeting with Bronson’s staff and wanted more details about the proposed navigation center and low barrier shelter.

Joe Gerace, director of the Anchorage Health Department, stressed that the funds being requested are one-time funds that would be used to construct the facility. The operational costs would be handled separately, he said.

Municipality of Anchorage Director of the Office of Management and Budget Cheryl Frasca also alluded to the June 30 deadline by which Anchorage leaders want to transition out of mass care services at the Sullivan Arena.

“Now we’re up to a hard deadline, decisions have to be made, and if you want to push this out so you can get a pro forma that makes you feel more comfortable that’s your call,” Frasca said. “But we have a June 30 deadline.”

“I think we have made a big decisions with not enough information (in the past), and in this case, we actually have quite a lot of information,” assembly member John Weddleton said.

A joint resolution was announced on Friday by the Anchorage Administration and the Legislative Drafting Group for consideration at the next assembly meeting, outlining the intention of the proposed facility.

According to the resolution, the municipality would make several commitments, including following a “housing first” approach and supporting the community goal of reaching “functional zero” — a milestone indicating a community has “measurably” ended homelessness for a certain population — within two years of construction being complete.

The resolution also states that the municipality would stop operating a navigation center once the number of people experiencing homelessness dropped below 150, or once it was no greater than the monthly housing placement rate for those experiencing homelessness.

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