Seeking Shelter: Part of community task force’s plan for possible sanctioned camps still in flux

Seeking Shelter: Part of community task force’s plan for possible sanctioned camps still in flux
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 9:11 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Since the closing of the largest shelter in Anchorage weeks ago left just a few dozen homeless residents with somewhere to stay, there are still questions about where the most vulnerable people will be housed in the long term.

The Sanctioned Camps Community Task Force is proposing several possible sites across the Anchorage area for designated campsites where basic resources would be available such as water and bathrooms. Three of the sites proposed include areas near West 100th Avenue and C Street, the corner of Bragaw Street and East Sixth Avenue, and the Eagle River Campground.

This part of the task force’s resolution is still in flux.

Caroline Storm, a member of the task force, sent a message to Alaska’s News Source on Tuesday saying the corporation that owns the land at the proposed site near 100th Avenue and C Street is “upset” they were named in the resolution and that the task force was going to clarify that site and the Eagle River location to more generic terms; Storm said they would be “a site in South Anchorage” and “a site in Eagle River.”

The original resolution, submitted to the Anchorage Assembly last week, lists land at C Street and 100th Avenue with Cook Inlet Region, Inc., also known as CIRI.

“We’re just disappointed a resolution like that would include a private company without first contacting them or consideration of a private land owner,” said Ethan Tyler, CIRI senior director of external affairs.

CIRI isn’t the only entity that said it wasn’t notified before being listed on the resolution. Pacific Northern Academy also says they weren’t notified of having a possible site at Bragaw and East Sixth Avenue.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which manages the Eagle River Campground as listed on the task force’s resolution, issued a statement to Alaska’s News Source saying that the location would not be suitable for sheltering those without suitable housing.

“While the Department of Natural Resources is sympathetic to the challenges facing unhoused people in the Anchorage area, the Eagle River Campground in Chugach State Park would not be an appropriate place for a sanctioned homeless camp,” DNR Director of Communications Lorraine Henry wrote in an email. “After the Sanctioned Camps Community Task Force released their recommendation to the Anchorage Assembly last week that included asking the State of Alaska to consider allowing a sanctioned homeless camp at the Eagle River Campground, DNR spoke with Anchorage Parks and Recreation to let them know we will not be changing the fee or length of stay policy at the Eagle River Campground this season. If the Anchorage Assembly brings forward a proposal for sanctioned homeless camps on other State land managed by DNR, we would evaluate each option carefully.”

In response to the groups that said they were not notified they would be listed on the task force’s resolution, Storm said in an email that the task force was faced with quickly coming up with locations before the closure of the Sullivan Arena on May 31.

“I can fully appreciate that private property owners feel put-on-the-spot by being named in the Task Force resolution that had been prepared for the May 23rd Assembly meeting,” Storm wrote. “The Task Force felt an enormous urgency to recommend specific sites that could be deployed ahead of the May 31st Sullivan closure and the abatement of the Cuddy Park area. Sites named for immediate deployment were understood to be MOA owned, and the sites listed as future possibilities were simply options to be considered for future action as required.

“I can’t speak for the entire Task Force yet want to offer a personal apology to those property owners for putting you in a situation where you now have to deal with public opinion and any negative optics.”

Alaska’s News Source spoke with several residents who live near the proposed site on Bragaw Street.

“They do need somewhere to live and our government should help provide some sort of help, but it does bring a certain element of nervousness knowing that it would be right next to my home and neighbors that I know and love,” Morgan Tullos said.

John Elson also lives near the proposed sanctioned camp on Bragaw Street.

“This community here has enough trouble,” Elson said. “There are some good honest people living around here. All my neighbors are good. It’s just going to cause a lot of trouble.”

For the Task Force, the hope is that whatever location might be chosen — if any — it could include basic resources such as bathrooms and drinking water for those living on the streets, as well as many other proposed resources listed in the original resolution.

The Anchorage Assembly will consider the task force recommendations during the June 6 regular Assembly meeting. A work session has been scheduled for Friday.