Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness questions what will happen when Sullivan Arena closes

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 5:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The service of the Sullivan Arena as a homeless shelter is nearly over, but one group wants to see a more detailed plan of where people will go and how they will be helped once the doors close to Anchorage’s homeless residents.

The city plans to shut the shelter on June 30, months before a new 150-bed navigation center in East Anchorage is set to open late this fall. The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness held a press conference on Wednesday to express concerns over what the next steps are.

Caseworkers are currently assisting people at the Sullivan to find housing, but the coalition estimates approximately 95 people currently staying at the Sullivan won’t have a place to go next month. Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who is also the Director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, said she’s asked if Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration has a specific plan to provide shelter for those people.

“It’s that coordination of, what’s going to happen or, if anything, and then what we can add on to it,” Zaletel said. “Because we can’t replace what has been in place, which is the access to food and hygiene for hundreds of people at the Sullivan Arena.”

Bronson’s Spokesperson Hans Rodvik said that the city’s efforts are ongoing to get unsheltered people services and shelter. Rodvik responded to questions about the response in an email.

“The Municipality is working every avenue to ensure people get food, water and hygiene...The Administration is encouraged to work with non-profits and religious organizations to help during this time of need.”

Zaletel had another question she said the administration hasn’t answered. She wants to know if homeless camp abatements will stop, since the Sullivan is no longer accepting new guests and the group believes there isn’t room at other shelters to send people to.

“We are unaware of any adequate shelter capacity to justify the abatement of camps right now,” Zaletel said. “I think it is extremely disruptive to abate camps when there is nowhere for people to go, because then not only are you shuffling individuals around our community, but they also have no access to services.”

Rodvik wrote that the city intends to continue abatements, arguing that there is adequate shelter space in Anchorage.

Zaletel said she’d like to hear more specifics as well as better coordination between the city and her agency.

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