Anchorage Police and tow trucks start moving vehicles from Downtown homeless encampment

First vehicles removed before noon
Dozens of abandoned vehicles towed from 3rd and Ingra homeless camp
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 12:48 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2023 at 3:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A row of tow trucks arrived outside of the homeless encampment on Third Avenue and Ingra Street Thursday morning to begin removing vehicles from the site as part of the city’s abatement process.

When Anchorage police officers arrived around 11 a.m., several large vehicles — including buses, a boat, and an old Anchorage airport fire truck — were in the driveway entrance, but locked behind a gate. Police ordered those larger vehicles to move back into the large lot so the tow trucks could enter and move smaller vehicles.

Earlier this week, Anchorage Police Chief Michael Kerle indicated no vehicles would be impounded if someone was living inside.

“We’ve given proper notice and we have started impounding those vehicles that have no purpose, except they’re either abandoned there or are being stored,” Chief Kerle said Monday.

Last month, the municipality filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the court to reconsider a federal ruling forbidding cities in the west from abating homeless encampments if shelter beds are not available for homeless people living in the camps.

Earlier this week, the city continued to move forward with its plan to open a mass homeless shelter off of East 56th Avenue, between the Old Seward and New Seward Highways. The shelter would convert a former solid waste services facility into space for 150 beds. But details of the full winter shelter plan are now not expected until “closer to October 16,” according an email from the mayor’s office. No abatement of individuals residing on public lands will take place until after winter shelter beds are available.

Thursday morning’s action by authorities led to an angry confrontation with a man who said he was the owner of the two buses and a fire truck.

Jarvis Wallace says he got the fire truck for free off Facebook.

Asked why he parked the vehicles at the city’s largest homeless camp, Wallace said it was “convenient.”

“Every time I park in Mountain View, they be trippin’ — you pull up with two buses deep and a fire truck in Mountain View and then — yeah, my mom be trippin’,” Wallace said.

He was later taken into custody by police and driven away.

“I was trying to leave!” Wallace yelled from the back of a police car.

Anchorage police say 29-year-old Wallace was charged with interfering with vehicle impoundment, violating conditions of release, criminal mischief, and misconduct involving a controlled substance.

A tow operator then began loading vehicles to be removed, but dozens remained. It was not clear at the time how long the process may take.

A small car was towed first. A man named Mike Poirier said he owns the car, but that it doesn’t run.

“They should be out there arresting real criminals,” Poirier said. “Bank robbers, murderers, and rapists and everything, but no — they’re down here messing with us homeless people. It’s wrong.”

People living at the homeless camp grabbed their belongings and pets and walked around asking each other questions.

A woman wearing an all-pink sweat suit put her small, Chihuahua-like dog down her shirt to keep it warm.

There were no city officials or police spokespeople on hand to answer questions this morning. The office of Mayor Dave Bronson did release a statement Thursday afternoon.

“The vehicles that were impounded today at 3rd and Ingra was to remove abandoned vehicles that were illegally parked at that location for some time. All the vehicles that were removed today had proper impound notice,” the statement read.

“The Mayor was aware that this operation was being planned but he did not know when it was happening. He stopped by 3rd and Ingra today and was made aware the abandoned vehicles were being removed from the property.”

It is unclear how many vehicles will be towed and the city says the cost of towing is covered under the existing junk vehicle towing contract.

Municipal officials also promise details of a full winter shelter offering more than 500 total beds in the coming days. After those beds become available, notices are expected at the Downtown site informing homeless people there that they must leave.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.