Sullivan Arena closes doors to all but 90 high risk individuals

Sullivan Arena closes doors to all but 90 ‘high risk’ individuals
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 5:13 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 6:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Although Monday was the deadline to pack up and move on for most of the people staying at the Sullivan Arena, there was hardly a complete withdrawal from the facility on the final day of shelter operations.

The shelter was already well below 50% capacity with 166 clients on the final night, according to Anchorage Housing and Homeless Coordinator Alexis Johnson.

On Friday, nonprofits supplied shelter clients with tents and many of them had already left for elsewhere. Only 90 people who’ve been designated as high risk, mostly for mobility issues, will be permitted to stay until the end of May.

Cathleen McLaughlin, who was hired as a consultant by the city to help people with the transition, had concerns about people leaving with no obvious place to go. McLaughlin had originally identified 174 people who she considered high risk who wouldn’t fare well outside.

“We are asking people that are already in survival mode to make choices. (People) that are going to be camping in places that are open and obvious, they are going to be remaining in survival mode, and that’s the thing that troubles me,” she said. “Whether the number is 90 or 174 or 360, we are putting the burden of the decisions that are being made on the people that had the least chance of being able to solve the problem.”

McLaughlin said many of the 90 people remaining at the shelter are on waitlists for housing. She said if any do move out, the city can fill their beds at the Sullivan with other qualified people, at least until the end of the month.

Mayor Dave Bronson has said he hopes to transition many of the vulnerable people staying at the Sullivan into the city-owned former Golden Lion Hotel. The hotel is scheduled to be ready to accept people by the end of June.