Bronson Administration proposes using rec centers as homeless shelters

The Bronson administration is proposing to use both the Spenard and Fairview Rec Centers as emergency homeless shelters this winter
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration proposed using city recreation centers as shelters for homeless Anchorage residents today at a special meeting of the Anchorage Assembly.

When Anchorage’s Centennial Campground closes on Sept. 30, Bronson’s administration has pledged to provide transportation to new shelters. Bronson administration officials outlined the details of the city’s emergency winter shelter plan at the meeting, including the use of both the Fairview and Spenard Rec Centers as low barrier shelters for up to 150 people, starting on Sept. 29.

Assembly Committee on Housing and Homelessness Chair Felix Rivera was surprised. Rivera said when the rec centers had been brought up before, they were characterized as a last resort.

“That certainly seems to be sort of an about-face from the administration because they had said last option, we are going to look at everything else, and now it seems to be that that’s their first option,” Rivera said.

Bronson Chief of Staff Alexis Johnson said the rec centers offer the quickest and most cost-effective way to house people and provide for their basic needs.

“When you start to look at the footprint across Anchorage, what facility can hold up to 150 people, does have bathrooms, also has the ability to have showers, you are very limited on your capacity,” Johnson said.

Putting more homeless facilities in Fairview is a big concern for Assembly member Christopher Constant, who said the centers are well used by the community. Constant said burdening his district with even more social services designed for the homeless simply isn’t fair.

“It kind of feeds the perception, whether it’s real or not, that Fairview is always the first place this community will look to deposit the social challenges it can’t figure out anywhere else,” he said.

Constant said he would oppose the proposal, which right now is simply that. The city is one of the participants in a homeless task force that is working to come up with viable solutions to get an estimated 350 individuals off the streets before the snow flies. The task force is expected to make its presentation to the assembly on Sept. 21.