Number of unsheltered people in Anchorage surges

Anchorage’s number of unsheltered people has risen 168% over last year
Number of unsheltered people in Anchorage surges
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 3:31 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 5:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The number of unsheltered people in Anchorage has dramatically increased in the past decade according to the federally-mandated point-in-time count. That count is conducted annually on one night during the last week in January and this year was done on Jan. 30.

Each year the federal government requires cities to count the number of homeless people living within their communities, as a requirement for those cities to receive federal funding for homeless-related programs. Those who work with homeless people say the count does not provide a full accounting of people in the community who need the full range of services social service agencies provide. But it is useful to compare the year-to-year numbers.

The recently compiled data shows the overall number of persons in Anchorage who are experiencing homelessness has risen in the past several years. In 2020, that number was 1,058. In 2021, it was 1,319 and in 2022 it was 1,494.

In 2023, a total of 1,760 homeless persons were counted. That number includes those in temporary and emergency shelters, plus those considered unsheltered.

The number of people considered unsheltered rose 168% from last year. This year’s point-in-time effort counted 335 unsheltered on that January night. In 2022, volunteers counted 125 unsheltered people.

In Alaska, workers and volunteers try to gather as much information as possible to see how many people are still unsheltered during the middle of winter but finding them isn’t always easy.

Workers with the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness collaborated with other city-funded organizations and volunteers to conduct the count. The goal is to count each unsheltered individual and gather as much demographic information as possible.

However, some who are approached would rather not participate in the program and have the choice to opt out.

Outreach teams with ACEH do their best to get an accurate count, equipped with warm meals and toiletries to hand out to those who want them.

Locating the unsheltered throughout the city of Anchorage can be difficult. One team trudged through snow that led them to some campers in a wooded area of Mountain View.

Meanwhile, outreach workers are fighting to meet a deadline, counting those who often seem discounted.

Workers walk the trail system and look for evidence of camps, going back to where they know people have camped — all the way from Eagle River down to South Anchorage.

Alexis Johnson, the Anchorage housing and homeless coordinator, says the higher numbers are in part a reflection of what she called “a more robust count of those who are unsheltered.”

“This year’s numbers are a better representation of the actual number of unsheltered homeless. There were more volunteers and more money to conduct the count,” Johnson said.

The point-in-time count also found the total number of homeless people in the state of Alaska, outside of Anchorage, rose from 604 in 2022 to 854 in 2023. Excluding Anchorage, state numbers show the number of unsheltered people declining from 191 in 2022 to 133 in 2023.

The point in time count is not perfect, not everyone gets counted. But they are submitted to the federal government to help determine the amount of funding appropriated.

The new numbers will be discussed in detail at an Anchorage Assembly meeting in June.