Anchorage officials to begin abating homeless encampments

Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 9:59 PM AKDT
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The Municipality of Anchorage said Tuesday that it will begin the process of abating homeless camps along Chester Creek and in downtown area.

The cleanup process is set to begin on Thursday, and officials said it could take a while.

“A number of them will take several days, if not longer, to actually abate and clean,” said the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt during an Anchorage Assembly meeting Tuesday night.

At the meeting, several assembly members and some public commenters expressed frustration at the lack of movement from the city on homeless camps.

“Our current policies and our policies for months have been to tolerate ramping criminality,” said member Christopher Constant, who represents the downtown area.

Officials pointed to official Centers for Disease Control guidelines cautioning against abating homeless camps during the pandemic as part of the reason for the delay in action on these camps.

“You’re increasing people moving around, people coming into contact with each other, etcetera,” said Chris Schutte, director of the Municipal Department of Economic and Community Development. “That could lead to a transmission case.”

Despite that, the city said it is moving forward with the abatements. The process, however, takes at least 10 days after notices are posted to begin, since that's the amount of lead time required before cleaning can start. A budget amendment on the Anchorage Assembly’s agenda Tuesday proposed moving more funds toward making the abatements happen.

Shutte, however, said that a lack of funding isn’t the issue.

“It is my opinion that even with more money, we won’t necessarily accomplish the cleanups any faster,” he said.

With the contract for the mass homeless shelter ending in July, some also raised concerns that an opportunity to make significant progress on homelessness this year is closing fast.

“What I think we need to do is utilize and leverage the resources we’ve put in place due to COVID-19," said Midtown Assembly Member Meg Zalatel, "the mass shelter, the resource hub, and get as many people connected as possible."

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