Mayor, 2 assembly members encourage completion of the navigation center with new resolution

Mayor, 2 assembly members encourage completion of the navigation center with new resolution
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 8:56 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A resolution brought in front of the Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday is the latest effort by Mayor Dave Bronson to continue building a navigation shelter on the eastern side of town.

Supporters — including Assembly Members Randy Sulte and Kevin Cross — hope the center will be completed in time for next winter at the intersection of Tudor Road and Elmore Road.

Sulte believes Anchorage needs a mass care facility — whether it’s for relief for the homeless or those displaced by wildfires or earthquakes.

“If we don’t do something, we’re going to end up back at the Sullivan Arena and I think that neighborhood has already suffered enough,” Sulte said. “I’d like to get the Sullivan back into the hands of the public to use it for its intended purpose.”

Sulte believes building a new site is one of the municipality’s best options.

“One of our best and most economical options at this point, a purposed built facility ... so I’m putting forward what was last agreed upon, so it has a 150 capacity with a surge capacity of 250 and the associated navigation center,” Sulte said.

According to the Sanctioned Camps Community Task Force, there’s an estimated 300 to 700 unsheltered individuals in Anchorage.

Mayor Dave Bronson fully supports completing the center before next winter.

“With the high number of individuals experiencing homelessness who are living on our streets currently, the need for permanent year-round shelter in our city is more apparent than ever,” Bronson said in a statement. “We have an option to accomplish significant progress to address this longstanding community need before next winter. The nav center and shelter site at Tudor/Elmore stands ready to be move forward. We have the materials. We have the supplies. We have the site prepped. We have the building. We have the permits. We just need the community’s will.”

Currently, the project has no funding source. Sulte hopes to use part of the 2022 general fund budget surplus to finish the navigation center — estimated to cost around $7 million.

Other members of the assembly were not as quick to support the completion of the center.

Assembly Member Felix Rivera has been working with Anchorage’s Sanctioned Camps Community Task Force to find solutions for the homeless in the city in the mean time as large number of individuals are now staying in unsanctioned camps around Anchorage.

“I have no public opinion on the Tudor and Elmore Navigation Center other than it needs to go through the public process as laid out in the Clean Slate Strategy,” Rivera said.

The mayor hopes that constructing the navigation center and shelter will encourage those camping in greenbelt areas to move indoors.

“Having hundreds of individuals living in our green spaces, parks, and trails is not good for our community or them as persons,” Bronson said. “It will be even far worse this winter. It’s not safe, and it’s not humane. We have made progress with efforts such as hotel conversions. But it is clear the need for shelter space exists. I want us to find a path forward before next winter, to ensure we are doing right by those who are most vulnerable. Again, I will work with each one of the Assembly Members to make this happen.”

Construction at the navigation center site began without proper approval from the Assembly, who later voted to pause the project. Members of the Bronson administration and the Assembly agree that another site is needed to help homeless individuals with housing, treatment, employment, and other needs.