‘It’s a beautiful thing’: Sullivan Arena clients grateful for extended shelter service

‘It’s a beautiful thing’: Sullivan Arena clients grateful for extended shelter service
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 5:28 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The hallways of the Sullivan Arena have grown quieter over the last week as congregate shelter operations begin to wind down. On Tuesday night, the shelter saw around 270 clients out of their maximum allowed intake of 360. But on Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly voted to extend the Sullivan Arena’s closure date through the end of May for those with physical disabilities or severe health issues.

According to the municipality’s Housing and Homeless Coordinator Alexis Johnson, the clients who will be allowed to stay are those with a disability that affects their activities and mobility — but the hope is to get them into secured housing.

“Our focus is to get them into housing long-term, and to just continue to chip away until everybody is successfully housed,” Johnson said.

Right now, the authorities estimate the number of vulnerable clients to be between 70 to 170 people. Many of those clients are unsure of where they’ll be going after they leave the Sullivan, but grateful that authorities aren’t asking them to leave on April 30.

“I think it’s great. I like it. I have two dogs here, so I take care of them while I’m here,” said client Cindy Herr, who occasionally uses a walker. “‘Cause right now, I really don’t got nowhere to go with them. I don’t want to be out on the street again. I was out on the streets for nine days with them before I came here. And I didn’t like it. It was scary.”

Extending the shelter was a critical decision, clients say.

“It’s inhumane to throw people out that can’t take care of themselves. And the people on the board that makes the decision on this realized that — and especially the mayor, I think,” client Bobby Garrett said. “Some of them don’t have limbs like me ... some of them don’t have legs, some of them don’t have hands. But they’re going to extend it for them, and I think that it’s a beautiful thing.”

Garrett said it is a struggle to get access to the resources people like him need. He said that for some of the clients, just getting out to grab food is a struggle.

The Anchorage Assembly’s decision to extend operations will allow for up to 90 clients to continue sheltering at the arena until the end of May. Clients will continue to be accepted until the end of April.