Mayor says Golden Lion Hotel included in solutions for homelessness in the new year

The new year brings new options for people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - So far, 2023 looks a lot like 2022 when it comes to people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage.

The Sullivan Arena is once again a homeless shelter and people are still struggling on the streets, but the new year is bringing new hope, according to Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and others.

Bronson said the city is working to transform the former Golden Lion Hotel — not into a substance abuse treatment center as some had hoped — but into permanent, supportive low-income housing.

“Right now we are looking at about three months to bring that online,” Bronson said.

Bronson added that he has directed workers to quickly bring the building up to code.

Bronson said he’s spoken to neighbors in the area to answer their concerns, which he believes were more focused on the proposal to make the facility a treatment center, something the mayor said it was never zoned for.

Bronson said he plans to shut down the Sullivan Arena as an emergency shelter when temperatures warm in the spring. The federal government is no longer paying to keep the shelter running as it did during the COVID-19 health emergency, and instead, taxpayers are footing the bill.

“It’s not FEMA reimbursed anymore, this is all on the property taxpayer,” said Bronson. “The good thing is, our operating costs at the Sullivan are about one-third of what they were during COVID.”

Bronson said costs to run the Sullivan as an emergency shelter has dropped from $1.6 million a month to $470,000 a month. Bronson said that the decrease in operating costs are a huge savings.

When asked whether he would direct people to Centennial Park Campground as the administration did last summer, the mayor said he couldn’t comment on that and didn’t know for sure. He added that concerns about people starting wildfires in unauthorized camps, which prompted the move to Centennial, will likely exist this year as well.

Bronson said he will push the Anchorage Assembly to move forward with a Navigation Center in East Anchorage. Assembly members stopped work on the project after the administration admitted it mistakenly gave a contractor the green light to spend nearly $5 million on the project without necessary assembly approval. Bronson said it makes sense to continue the work because the city needs a resource center for people as well as year-round emergency shelter space.

“No site is perfect but that’s the best site that’s certainly available in this city,” Bronson said. “It’s close enough, but not too close to neighborhoods. It’s the right building, it’s the right structure for the right place, and we are going to try and get to that and work with the assembly again to get to that.”