New safety measures coming to Sullivan Arena, Fairview neighborhood

New safety measures will be coming to the Sullivan Arena and surrounding neighborhoods
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 9:09 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 9:50 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness met Wednesday to discuss how to continue assistance for those experiencing homelessness.

One topic of discussion was the demobilization of the emergency shelter plan, because the Sullivan Arena will not be staying open indefinitely.

The Dave Bronson administration maintains that it’s currently seeing around 350 people seeking shelter each night, so they hope to maintain the 360-person capacity while the Sullivan continues to operate as a shelter.

“The Sullivan Arena isn’t going to stay as an emergency shelter forever, so eventually all of those hundreds of people that are staying there are going to have to have somewhere else to go,” Assemblymember Felix Rivera said. “So we really started the discussions today trying to really get a full scope of the picture, and trying to look at some of the solutions that we have that we can implement.”

Municipality of Anchorage’s homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson emphasized the introduction of new safety measures — inside and outside of the Sullivan. To address that need, police officers will be increasing patrols in the area on foot and in vehicles.

“They’re going to be focusing on equipment violations, pedestrian violations, camping violations, speed enforcement and parking enforcement, and illegal camps,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the municipality’s Parks and Recreation department is addressing cleanup efforts around the Sullivan Arena and Chester Creek. Johnson also said that inside the Sullivan, all staff are doing new safety training and there’s a higher level of cleanliness, peer support and more safety patrols. She stated that she believes there will be a positive change from these measures.

Matthew Philpott, one of the compliance officers working for Henning — the company with the contract to operate the shelter at the Sullivan arena — spoke to some of the changes occurring there.

“We want to meet our contractual obligations, as well as at the same time to look out for the cleanliness and the safety of the residents,” said Philpott. “That includes the neighborhood, that includes the people that are across the street from the shelter. So what we’ve done is we’ve implemented increased safety patrols on the outside.”

Philpott offered additional insight into the safety situation at and around the Sullivan Arena.

“As far as safety goes, we’re not going more hands-on — we’re actually going more hands-off. So teaching our people how to use verbal judo, not actual physical judo to deescalate situations, increased presence instead of exacerbating the situation by increased officer presence and making people more reactive, maybe sometimes peeling off or tapping out.”

“As far as cleanliness goes, we have more people actually on the floor monitoring that, as opposed to being reactive, we’re being more proactive. We’re going around and constantly assessing, reassessing, reevaluating and changing. Changes happen every day and they’ll continue to happen,” Philpott said.

Past public testimony has emphasized there are still several issues that residents in the Fairview area have to deal with.

“Fairview has had to deal with a lot with regard to homelessness — they’ve had the Sullivan in their backyard for years now as a homeless shelter and as a COVID-19 facility — so I want to do what I can to alleviate the burden for that community and figure out what other solutions that we have,” Rivera said.