Opinions vary at final stretch of Clean Slate Strategy town halls

A town hall, Monday at the Loussac Library, is the third and final in Anchorage's Clean Slate Strategy until July.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 7:05 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A town hall Monday at the Loussac Library was the third and final in Anchorage’s current round of discussions surrounding the Clean Slate Strategy to get unhoused residents sheltered by the start of winter.

The strategy, approved by an Anchorage Assembly resolution in March, has an updated and established timeline with an end goal of identifying or building a permanent, low-barrier homeless shelter by Nov. 1.

“There is no one solution to this problem,” Anchorage resident Jeff Lafferty said. “It’s many-faceted, it’s complex, and it’s not going to be solved overnight. I would hope that the majority of the people this involves — our homeless population, our transient population — they want help. They do. But ... the harsh reality is, you know as well as I do, there’s probably a good percentage that, they don’t want help.”

Felix Rivera, Chair of the Housing and Homelessness Committee, provided data to give context to the current situation at Monday’s town hall. A point-in-time homeless count, shown in strategy documents, showed 335 unsheltered people sleeping outside in Anchorage in Jan. 2023 — more than double the number from Jan. 2022. Other counts have pointed to numbers in the thousands.

While residents who spoke Monday don’t all agree on what to do next, they all want something to be done.

“I’m actually taking in homeless people and driving around with them in my motorhome to sleep,” Anchorage resident Angela Butcher said. “Putting up my own tent for them to sleep, feeding them all my food and my water. I don’t know what else to do, trying to sober them up and feed them because they look like they’re dying.”

Ken McCarty, a former Alaska representative, also spoke at the town hall.

“It’s not a situation where we don’t love — that we do love — everyone in an unconditional, positive regard,” McCarty said. “But also there are norms that are expected, social norms that we expect we need to enforce those things and hearing in different town hall meetings and talking to other people ... feeling like there’s a special group being recognized, excluding other people in our community and not following the norms that society has. So, we’re looking at a dichotomy here.”

The Clean Slate Strategy will continue to be discussed in Housing and Homelessness Committee meetings on June 7, June 12, and June 14, as well as more town halls in July and August that haven’t been finalized yet.