Assembly discusses timeline for opening warming centers at committee meeting

Assembly discusses timeline for opening warming centers at committee meeting
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:30 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Shelter space for those dealing with housing insecurity is filling up quickly, and there are still no warming centers in Anchorage for those dealing with the elements.

Housing and Homelessness Coordinator Alexis Johnson said there are still somewhere between 300 to 350 people on the waitlist for shelter this winter, even after space being added to the facility now occupying the former solid waste site. The Assembly approved adding 50 additional beds to the old solid waste facility.

Rob Seay, a community liaison for Henning, Inc. — which runs operations at the former SWS building — said half of those beds have already been filled.

“Those 50 additional beds were made yesterday afternoon, I believe, so in a matter of 12 hours,” Seay said.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said its important warming areas get set up as soon as possible for those still braving the elements at homeless encampments around the municipality.

“I am encouraging them if they want to get it faster — and I think they should get it done faster, frankly, by this weekend — they need to declare a civil emergency to get that done,” Rivera said.

Mayor Dave Bronson’s chief-of-staff Mario Bird said that to his knowledge, the administration has not had an internal discussion about declaring an emergency — but he say a 50-person warming center is expected to be set up in Fairview by Dec. 1.

However, Rivera said more are needed — in locations such as Midtown and Downtown Anchorage.

“Now that we kind of see, okay, this is what the Assembly’s thinking, I’m sure we’ll go back to the mayor’s office and talk a little bit more about that,” Bird said.

During Wednesday’s meet, no details were revealed about when additional shelter space is expected to open. Henning, Inc. said it does not want to expand capacity beyond 200 beds.