Anchorage asks SCOTUS to reconsider lower court homeless ruling; moves ahead with camp abatement plan

Muni joins 16 other West Coast cities in filing brief to overturn earlier Ninth Circuit ruling
Anchorage asks SCOTUS to reconsider lower court homeless ruling; moves ahead with camp abatement plan
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 11:27 AM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2023 at 11:36 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to reconsider and potentially overturn a federal court ruling forbidding cities in the west from abating homeless encampments if shelter beds are not available for homeless people living in the camps.

“As a city in the Arctic, our unsheltered need cold weather sheltering, however, the homelessness crisis is a complex issue that requires a complex solution, and the Ninth Circuit court’s decisions have paralyzed our ability to address this crisis in places where it is most severe,” Mayor Dave Bronson said at a morning City Hall news conference.

The Ninth Circuit of the federal judiciary is responsible for the West Coast and its earlier ruling applies only to those states. That court ruled in 2020, then reaffirmed this year that, with some exceptions, communities could not move homeless people from public spaces unless shelter is available for those individuals.

Rob Cupples who owns property in proximity to a homeless camp near 3rd and Ingra said he supports the mayor’s decision, and thinks Martin V. Boise is flawed, even if it has good intentions.

“There is a percentage of our population, I believe based on my own personal experience, who chooses to be seasonally homeless. When temperatures start to drop and things get a little uncomfortable, they find somewhere to go,” Cupples said.

However, assembly member Anna Brawley said she has some concerns related to the mayor’s announcement. She said the courts have spoken and Martin V. Boise has been challenged several times, and that ruling has been upheld, to her “understanding.”

“We need to focus on shelter and housing and getting focus off the street and making sure they have places to go and really pathways out of poverty and out of homelessness. I simply don’t believe challenging this ruling is going to get us there,” Brawley said.

Regardless of whether the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decides to take up the case, the municipality intends to begin abating homeless camps around town as soon as winter shelter beds become available.

Alexis Johnson, the Anchorage homeless director, said Tuesday morning that the first camp to be abated will be the large camp at Third Avenue and Ingra Street, and that as space becomes available through the winter shelter program, the city will then shift to abating Chanshtnu Muldoon Park. Johnson said the Cuddy Park area and Davis Park encampments will be abated next if enough beds are available to house people in those camps.