Anchorage Assembly begins ‘clean slate’ approach to explore shelter options

Anchorage Assembly begins clean slate approach to explore shelter options
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - At a work session at City Hall on Friday assembly members listed concerns they’ve heard from the community about having a homeless shelter nearby. Responses ranged from concerns about increased crime or drug use to worries about people walking into traffic and getting hit by cars.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said it’s important to have community conversations about shelters that are not about specific sites. Listening to people’s fears is a part of that.

“I think it is important to admit those fears, to look those fears in the face and say, I get you and we can do better than those fears,” Rivera said.

Rivera has proposed a series of town hall meetings over April, May and into June to talk about how to improve shelters for the people who use them and the people who live near them. The goal is to decide on a permanent year-round shelter location by November that can be up and running as the weather turns colder.

“We do need action, but we can’t get to action without having really sincere community conversations,” said Rivera. “So the proposal I put forward is for us to have action by the end of the year. And that is actually really quick, that is moving really fast to have action done by the end of the year, but I think it is important for us to do this right.”

Some residents have expressed frustration that more has not been done to locate permanent shelter and get people out of the Sullivan Arena. That includes Danny Parish, who lives across the street from the Sullivan in a home he’s owned for 30 years. Parish said he no longer feels safe, adding that concerns people have about shelters in their neighborhoods are not theoretical for him.

“I would really appreciate it if the mayor would just buy my house for $400,000 and let me drive away, because I don’t ever foresee this neighborhood being what it was,” he said.

Assembly members will vote on a plan to close the Sullivan Arena as a shelter at their next meeting, on April 11. Rivera has proposed making that date April 30, although he said it’s possible that could change.