Seeking Shelter: Community task force looks at 40th and Denali lot for potential sanctioned campground

The proposed, low barrier sanctioned campground, would house no more then 75 campers.
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 7:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With no mass shelter or a sanctioned campground, those facing homelessness in Anchorage don’t know where to go. In response to this issue, for the past month, members of the city’s Sanctioned Campground Community Task Force have been trying to come up with solutions.

One of the proposed sites for a sanctioned campground is the municipality-owned empty lot located on East 40th Avenue and Denali Street, once slated to be home to the National Archive building.

“It is currently where folks are camped, it’s central, and it’s a municipally owned site, and it’s flat and it’s an easy location for people to provide services to and for people to circulate from,” task force member Caroline Storm said.

The proposed low barrier-sanctioned campground would house no more than 75 campers who would be housed in tents, pallet houses, and tiny homes.

“I think proximity to basic services is really key for some of the folks experiencing houselessness,” Storm said.

That’s the case for Albertina Waska, a camper at Cuddy Park, who needs assistance walking from place to place.

“I got to eat,” Waska said.

The proposed site is also near Loussac Library and Cuddy Park, where currently dozens of tents are set up. Some of the tents are just yards away from a playground structure, where Grant Smith takes his child to play. Smith said he’s not concerned about the campground being set up nearby.

“They have to have somewhere to go and if we don’t want them to be on the playground, then give them somewhere to be,” Grant said. “As much as people don’t like them being in and around the city, they have to be nearby to the services they need. Or, they are just going to keep coming back here. That’s the reality of it.”

Marjorie Logan is another park user. Logan and her dog take daily walks around Cuddy Park and have not had any worries yet.

“I’ve never been bothered by anybody from over there,” Logan said. “I think that there’s probably a better place, somewhere farther away from this part of town. This part of town gets kind of slammed all the time. But, I don’t see anything wrong with it being there.”

Alaska’s News Source spoke to a handful of other residents, who asked to not be interviewed. However, residents expressed concern regarding the close location of the campground to the library and playground. Some adults on Monday expressed that they had to think twice before allowing their child to play at the Cuddy Park playground.

This site is just one of five locations on the task force’s resolution. On Friday, the Anchorage Assembly will be hosting a work session to look over the entire resolution. Officials say the resolution will most likely appear on the schedule for the June 6 Assembly meeting.