Anchorage advocacy groups work to address immediate needs for homeless

While the future of the Centennial Campground as a temporary homeless shelter is uncertain, many volunteers and programs have begun to check in on the campsite.
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 7:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While the future of the Centennial Campground as a temporary homeless shelter is uncertain, many volunteers and programs have begun to check in on the campsite to help anyone in need of services.

Recently, Beans Cafe started providing three meals a day for those staying at the campground. Other programs like the Covenant House and Veterans Affairs checked in with homeless campers on Tuesday to see if they can line them up with resources.

Among those camping was Shao Xiong, who had previously stayed at the Sullivan Arena. Originally from California, Xiong said he’s waiting to find out if any Anchorage shelters have space for him.

“There’s a bathroom, there’s showers and restrooms, sinks, and stuff,” Xiong describes the camp. “They feed you daily.”

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness reported the shelter and housing capacity around Anchorage is very limited. ACEH Systems Improvement Administrator Terria Ware felt the homeless camp at Centennial could have better coordination if it was set up as homeless prevention and response system (HPRS) rather than an emergency response to fire danger in Anchorage.

“If it was a part of the HPRS, then we would gather everyone together,” Ware said. “ACEH as the community conveners would say, hey, you know, here’s the need for food, and who are our food providers and try to line those up, here’s the need for volunteers or clean up.”

In an email, Mayor Dave Bronson’s spokesperson Corey Allen-Young said campers were staying in illegal areas of the city that posed fire danger, which is why the municipality picked the Centennial Campground for them to stay.

“There is case managers and outreach workers on site at Centennial as well as other locations who are working hard to place individuals in services and into permanent housing,” Allen-Young wrote in the email. “This work is being done daily, just like it was done before Centennial and will continue after.”

Outside of Centennial, Ware said ACEH has worked to address the immediate needs of the homeless since the closure of the Sullivan Arena.

“We have seen some wonderful strategic movements from our partners like with Gospel Rescue Mission,” Ware said. “They’re now keeping people for 90 days versus 30 days, which is a significant impact.”

Ware added the complex care facility that was formerly the Sockeye Inn has opened its top floor allowing for full capacity, and the Downtown Hope Center has created more overflow space.

“So we reached out to lots of folks in the community and received a large amount of donations, for what is called the restaurant program with Alaska hospitality retailers,” Ware said.

Through ACEH’s restaurant program, Ware said they’ve begun to provide 100 meals at two locations on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church starting at 11:00 a.m. They also have a mobile shower unit available for those who don’t have shelter to use.

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