Anchorage Assembly considers summer shelter options

Anchorage Assembly considers summer shelter options
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 7:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Sullivan Arena is set to close as an emergency shelter at the end of April, but the question of where people experiencing homelessness will go after that is still very much up in the air.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said the problem is compounded by the fact that several other shelters are closing as well.

“We are looking at the Alex Hotel closing by the end of April, the Aviator Hotel closing by the end of April, and then we are using part of the gymnasium at the Covenant House that will be shut down for shelter purposes by the end of March,” Rivera said.

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness estimates shelter closings this spring will result in about 500 people who are newly unsheltered — a figure which does not include people who are currently unsheltered.

“Really we are probably talking about 800 individuals,” Rivera said. “We aren’t going to be able to come up with a plan likely for all 800, but let’s see if we can come up with a plan for as many of those individuals as possible.”

On Wednesday, members of the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee met to discuss possible solutions. Some ideas included keeping the Sullivan Arena open longer, allowing for so-called “safe camping” in sanctioned areas of town, as well as leasing the former Alaska Native Charter School to function as an emergency shelter.

Keeping the Sullivan Arena open through the summer appeared to draw the least support from Assembly members who attended the meeting — and Mayor Bronson’s administration said that is still an option. Rivera said he is hoping to find consensus on how to proceed in the coming days. He expects to have a solid plan to propose sometime in April.