Seeking Shelter: Uncertainty looms over sanctioned camps proposal

Some Anchorage Assembly members say it’s not realistic
Some Anchorage Assembly members say it’s not realistic
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:17 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The future of the five proposed sanctioned campsites throughout Anchorage is uncertain at best.

Anchorage Assembly members met with some of the Sanctioned Camp Task Force during a work session on Friday to discuss the current options. But some Assembly members criticized the proposal for moving too quickly and not having a secured budget in place.

Now some locations may be taken off the list altogether.

“Who the heck knows what’s going to happen on Tuesday, we’ll see,” Assembly member Felix Rivera said.

Next Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will meet again and likely vote on the resolution, which will be revised due to feedback from Friday’s work session.

“The timing of it and the cost of it is, is not realistic,” Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia said. “Right now, based on what I see, I’m not in support of it.”

Some community members also questioned whether the plan is realistic.

“It sounds like it’s a big ask to set up five encampments, sanctioned encampments this summer,” Cathy Gleason said, representing the Turnagain Community Council.

Gleason attended the work session to stay informed. She says nobody notified her community about a proposed sanctioned campsite being placed nearby. She hopes that communication will now improve.

“We just have a lot of questions and wanted more information since we haven’t been a part of this discussion like other councils that had representation on the task force had,” Gleason said.

Another key question is why create sanctioned camps if there’s no mechanism to make homeless people use them?

“If we make them appealable enough, people will gravitate towards that because that’s where the services are at,” task force member Charles Welch said.

But that argument didn’t convince the mayor’s homeless coordinator.

“There is no funding,” homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson said. “There is no benefit, in my opinion, to standing up these camps if people are not going to leave where they’re already at.”

The question as to whether city leaders should even continue with this project was discussed more than once. If the plan dies — the homeless population in Anchorage won’t be given shelter by the city this summer.

“No, I don’t see any other options for this summer,” Rivera said.

But this will all come down to what happens next Tuesday — and whether a newly revised plan will be approved.

“I honestly think that it’s probably half and half,” Rivera said. “Flip a coin, yep.”

If approved by the Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday, there will be several more meetings to fine-tune the proposal. If it’s shot down, the Assembly will continue to focus on the needs of the winter shelter.