Anchorage Assembly passes funding proposal for emergency cold weather shelter plan

Anchorage Assembly passes funding proposal for emergency cold weather shelter plan
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 4:52 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:57 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Assembly members introduced legislation Tuesday night addressing the costs for an emergency cold weather shelter plan for this winter.

Roughly 450 people are expected to be dealing with housing insecurity this winter season, according to the Anchorage Health Department.

On Tuesday night, the Assembly voted 9-2 in favor of pulling roughly $2.4 million in unused American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover the costs of the emergency cold weather shelter plan.

Assembly members Scott Meyers and Randy Sulte voted against the proposal. Meg Zaletel recused herself from the vote.

The Anchorage Health Department reported to Assembly members that between $2.3 million and $2.7 million will be needed to adequately fund shelters between Oct. 15 and Dec. 31 of this year.

According to the resolution, funds can be utilized for congregate or non-congregate emergency sheltering and warming services at one or more locations to be identified by the Anchorage Health Department.

Additionally, any emergency shelter funded by the resolution for congregate sheltering must have a maximum size of 150 people.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said funding is only one part of the solution. Implementation of the plan and finding providers is now in the health department’s hands.

“My question would really be, what is the Anchorage Health Department doing to look at congregate shelters? Is there a congregate shelter in mind? What is that location and when are they going to tell the public,” Rivera asked rhetorically. ”But next week at the housing and homelessness committee, the health department’s going to be presenting the current work that’s being done so that we know everything’s on track.”

As part of the resolution, an additional $3.2 million will be dedicated to finding more permanent housing solutions and investments, but some Assembly members had mixed feelings about the proposal.

Assembly member Randy Sulte said he wished the Assembly had funded Mayor Dave Bronson’s proposed shelter and navigation center at Tudor and Elmore Roads. The Assembly killed funding for the project last month.

“Simply from the standpoint of we have seen this coming — we are late preparing, and at the end, we will not have furthered our cause any better than we have now,” Sulte said.

Sulte introduced a resolution for the municipality to explore the possibility of designating the former solid waste service central transfer station facility as a temporary navigation center. An amended version of the resolution passed the Assembly.

“I think the shelters with cold weather plan with what I’m proposing at the Solid Waste Services Central Transfer Facility, It feels like we’re half pregnant. We’re pushing ideas, but we’re not taking them to 100% ... If we’re going to do anything going forward we have to do 100%,” Sulte said.

The Assembly also introduced a resolution to dedicate more than $957,000 left over from last winter’s emergency cold weather sheltering plan to fund emergency cold weather sheltering through the end of 2023.

The Health Department said it will cost somewhere between $4.21 million to $4.96 million to adequately fund shelters between January to April 2024.

Rivera said the Assembly will be starting the November budget process soon.

“So these discussions ... around how we finish funding January through April, winter shelter is going to be encapsulated in those discussions,” Rivera said.