Memo to tenants about area homelessness called racist by Alaska Native group

Published: May. 24, 2017 at 9:17 PM AKDT
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A letter from an Anchorage real estate company is being called "ignorant and racist" by an Alaska Native corporation, with the author saying she was just trying to protect her tenants from homeless people.

The memo posted at the Midtown office space for Northern Trust Real Estate Inc. begins by asking tenants to “help us be green,” to turn off lights when leaving the building and to not use space heaters indoors. But it’s the latter half of the letter that’s gaining attention on social media, seemingly blaming City Hall and Native Corporations for not doing enough to help alleviate area-homelessness.

It in part reads, "I urge you to complain to the Native Corporations if you know any officers of them. They make millions of dollars each year and do nothing to help their own people."

Executive Director of ANCSA Regional Association Kim Reitmeier said the letter, written by Northern Trust Real Estate owner Pat Baker, was a topic of discussion during their morning meeting on Wednesday.

“Ms Baker's comments and those of Northern Trust Real Estate are not only offensive, we find them racist,” said Reitmeier.

Reitmeier said the 12 Native Corporations across the state spend millions of dollars each year to fund non-profits working to find solutions for Alaska Natives who live on the street.

“The healthcare institutes, the Alaska Native Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation, all of the regional health institutes are addressing homelessness and those issues,” said Reitmeier.

Baker has since publicly responded to the criticism by writing on Facebook, "I sincerely apologize for my choice of words and any offense that this may have caused."

“I feel terrible,” said Baker. “It wasn't my intent to hurt anybody's feelings or anything. I never thought that, that was going to go to anyone other than a couple of our tenants who were experiencing some fear over walking to their car at night.’

Reitmeier said she understands homelessness is an issue the Alaska Native community is working to fix, but said it’s also a problem affecting all ethnicities.

“I encourage people to get out there and learn and educate themselves and have conversations. Again this is a community issue that we need to work together, not lobbing comments over the fence that are ignorant and racist,” said Reitmeier.

Since the uproar over the message, Baker said she's had a couple non-profits reach out to her to better understand the homeless issue surrounding her business.