Homeless shelters across Anchorage seeing full capacity

With frigid temperatures expected for the foreseeable future, people are flocking to the city’s shelters
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 8:49 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2022 at 10:28 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Homeless shelters across the Municipality of Anchorage remain at full capacity, according to those familiar with shelter operations.

“The need is high; the weather kind of pushed everybody outdoors, and into the indoors,” Municipality of Anchorage Homeless Coordinator Alexis Johnson said. “It’s worse when it’s cold outside. It’s worse when the weather is inclement.”

The Sullivan Arena, Johnson said, has been at max capacity since the middle of November. All 200 beds there were filled with clients from across the state as of Tuesday, with similar situations seen around the city. By late Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly had passed a resolution to expand capacity inside the arena from 200 to 360 beds.

“There is not a single entry point in the city that a person can wake up in woods and say, ‘I want a bed today,’” Johnson said. “We are full at the Aviator (Hotel), we’re full at the Alex, we’re full at the Sullivan Arena, we are full at Brother Francis (Shelter), give or take a few empty beds throughout the day. But right now, the system is full.”

Inside the Sullivan Arena, the need for help is still heavily prevalent, as lines of people stretch down the halls of the arena’s 24-hour warming area.

“We see about 150 to 170 people every night,” Johnson said. “We are trying to keep people alive ... That’s roughly the average we saw for a two-week span, of people who were in the warming shelter that wanted a bed.”

Johnson said Tuesday that more funding and more beds are needed for the arena. While the Bronson Administration was requesting that the Anchorage Assembly approve another 160 beds for the Sullivan, there has been outcry in the past from some residents who expressed concern over things such as safety and sanitation.

Last year, while operating as an emergency shelter, the Sullivan Arena held 520 beds at one point.