Bronson administration unveils winter homelessness plan

The city says the plan has a goal of making sure no one is left on the streets when winter hits.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:54 AM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The constant rain has made life pretty miserable for homeless people staying at the Centennial Campground in Anchorage but even those accommodations are coming to an end. The city has tentative plans to close the campground at the end of September, which is why many say the question of what comes next needs to be answered soon.

“Our goal at the end of the day is just to make sure that when it comes wintertime, and the freeze happens, and the snow is on the ground that we don’t have folks out on the streets,” Municipal Spokesperson Hans Rodvik said.

Rodvik was referring to a plan from the Bronson administration released on the last day of August to provide emergency shelter for the roughly 350 people estimated to be unhoused in Anchorage.

The plan includes:

  • The use of 20 portable self-contained buildings, provided by the Municipality of Anchorage, at no cost by a community partner. A press release from the administration described the shelters as being able to house 200 to 240 individuals with a total of 900 to 1,000 square feet of space for each shelter.
  • The development of a program to provide micro-grants to “churches, nonprofits, and organizations throughout Anchorage who elect to become emergency shelter sites.” The micro-grants will be funded by the municipality, according to the administration, which says it has not yet determined how much the grants will be.
  • Extend the use of the Aviator Hotel on West Fourth Avenue downtown, through funding, as a “non-congregate” site through the end of 2022, with the option of extending it through April. The administration said around 200 individuals can be housed at the hotel.
  • Use municipal buildings as a last resort for emergency shelter sites, if the portable self-contained sites do not become available through building code. These emergency sites would be used from October through April, if needed, and include the Spenard Recreation Center and Fairview Recreation Center. The administration said this option is the least preferred.

Assemblymember Felix Rivera said he was happy to receive the plan and eager to get to work. Rivera is head of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness and said he found the idea of small portable shelters intriguing.

“I think it’s an interesting idea worthy of exploration, so I want to know where they are thinking of putting them and wanting to know how they are planning on having a conversation with the neighbors,” he said.

According to Rodvik, using the buildings as a shelter would require a code change passed by the Assembly. He said the plan would be to put the buildings on municipal property which could be done relatively quickly.

Rodvik said the administration is willing to work with all parties to find a solution. The Anchorage Coalition To End Homelessness, which, in the past has been critical of the administration for the lack of a solid plan, said it considered the release a positive step.

“ACEH is glad to see the Mayor’s plan for emergency shelter and will review this plan and integrate it into the work of the Emergency Shelter Task Force. Our primary concern is the safety of people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage this winter, and it will take all stakeholders to ensure this. We are glad to have Anchorage Health Department representation on the Task Force and to continue working with the Mayor’s office on the best plan for our community,” ACEH Executive Director Meg Zalatel said in a written statement.

The administration will present an in-depth look at its plan in a special meeting of the Anchorage Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness next week.