Neighborhoods react to Assembly’s push for Golden Lion emergency shelter plan

Monday’s special Anchorage Assembly meeting included the introduction of an ordinance that would allow the use of the Golden Lion Hotel as an emergency shelter.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 9:44 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Monday’s special Anchorage Assembly meeting included the introduction of an ordinance that would allow the use of the Golden Lion Hotel as an emergency shelter.

It will be up for public testimony and a possible vote at the Assembly’s next meeting, slated for Oct. 11.

Assembly members also voted to allow a capacity increase at the Sullivan Arena, in the event other low-barrier shelters are full.

“We’ve seen in the past that there have been problems associated with high numbers at the Sullivan Arena, and we wanted to avoid repeating that situation,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said. “It’s a hardship for folks living around the area.”

Fairview Community Council President Allen Kemplen says that homelessness has been an issue in his neighborhood for a while.

“What’s happening here with the Sullivan Arena is creating an unfair burden to Fairview, it’s creating an unfair burden to our neighbors who have to experience the negative impacts, and it’s unfair to the businesses that are within the general area that are negatively impacted by the behavior of some of the individuals who will stay in there,” Kemplen said.

He says nearby residents have seen firsthand what can happen when there’s a large number of people sheltered at the Sullivan Arena.

“The solution is not the burden of one particular neighborhood, or it’s not the burden of a couple of particular neighborhoods,” Kemplen said. “It’s something we all — all neighborhoods — we need to accept that as a community, we all have a public responsibility.”

While some residents don’t understand why more people aren’t open to using the Golden Lion Hotel, some are concerned that it’s still even being considered.

“It was in the documents when they purchased it, that it was noted that it was not supposed to be a shelter,” Karen Biggs said. Biggs is a resident of the Geneva Woods subdivision that sits adjacent to the hotel near the corner of East 36th Avenue and the Seward Highway.

“So I’m not sure if they’re turning it into a shelter or not, so it’s a little concerning that they’re going back on that documentation that was signed when they purchased that building,” Biggs said.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration has said using the Golden Lion is not legal, but Assembly members responded by saying he could take action to allow it to be a legal emergency shelter.

“I think people are concerned that there’s not going to be security, that there’s going to be more crime, more traffic of people,” Biggs said. “But at the same rate, I feel a deep empathy for people who are houseless and we need to do something to help.”