Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness met with Bronson administration for special meeting

The Anchorage Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness met on Wednesday with members of Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration to discuss the Sullivan Arena
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness met on Wednesday with members of Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration to discuss the Sullivan Arena as it stops serving a homeless shelter on Thursday.

Felix Rivera is the chair of the committee and described the special meeting as a fact-finding exercise.

Members of the assembly and representatives from the Bronson administration went back and forth discussing camp abatement, the recent move to make Centennial Campground a temporary homeless shelter, and the closure of the Sullivan Arena as a homeless shelter.

The Bronson administration said that approximately 111 people are still staying at the Sullivan, and they expect 50-75 to fully exit the facility by tomorrow night.

“Remaining clients are aware of their options,” Municipal Manager Amy Demboski said during the meeting. “They’re aware of shelter locations and aware of food distribution locations. We can only continue to make clients aware of their options. We cannot make the decisions for them or decide where they choose to go.”

Demboski noted that the city added a fleet of vans to get people to the Aviator Hotel, the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission and other locations around Anchorage.

The administration said federal reimbursement for the Sullivan Arena shrinks by 10% after July 1, and city hall is still awaiting reimbursement for $80-$84 million from FEMA.

According to the Public Assistance deadlines issued by FEMA, “Congress directed the federal share of assistance for the COVID-19 disaster declarations be at least 90 %. FEMA will apply the 90% federal cost share to funding for all eligible costs for work performed and items used on or after July 2, 2022.”

Members of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness also spoke at today’s meeting and reported roughly 200 people are unsheltered in Anchorage with limited referral options due to a lack of shelter and housing program capacity.

The coalition said it also had outstanding questions about the Centennial Campground regarding transportation, camp abatement, vouchers, and hygiene.

Many members of the assembly pressed the administration about what they say is a lack of communication as the Sullivan Arena nears closure as a shelter.

“We’re going to have to put politics aside because it’s a humanitarian crisis,” assembly member Forrest Dunbar said. “But for the last two years, we’ve experienced nothing but politics on this issue from the same people who created this crisis.”

Bronson Chief of Staff Alexis Johnson responded to Dunbar in her closing comments and urged the assembly to work together with the administration.

“It’s important that we look at this not through the lens of a politicized lens,” Johnson said. “Maintain focus that this is a humanitarian issue whether we are in a crisis or not.”

The Bronson administration was questioned by Rivera about whether camp abatements are still happening. Demboski said they have been doing camp abatement, and Davis park is 75% abated.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that FEMA funding drops by 10% to a 90% level, not by 90% to a 10% funding level.

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