A growing problem - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, June 5, 2020

A growing problem


The city’s growing problem with the “homeless” at Third Avenue and Ingra Street is ugly – and getting uglier.

One can only wonder what will happen when summer arrives and city-provided shelters for the homeless at the Ben Boeke Ice and Sullivan arenas are abandoned for camps across Anchorage. What will happen when those people again take to the woods?

Already a sizable number of them, some of them alreacy kicked out of other city shelters, are roaming the streets, and many are living in a tent camp at the site of the former Alaska Native Service Hospital, much to the chagrin of nearby neighbors, who complain of the drugs, illicit activity and alcohol.

The camp’s occupants, many of them impaired or mentally ill, openly are ignoring, even challenging, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s hunker down orders in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rob Cupples, a longtime resident of the area, tells MustReadAlaska.com things are as bad as he ever has seen them in the area and the camp only continues to grow.

“With this growth has come a substantial increase in garbage on our streets, partying, loitering on our private properties, and an increase in mob mentality due to the lack of community presence under the hunker down order,” he says. “The occupants of the camps have demonstrated aggression on multiple occasions to members of this community including aggressively chasing an ADN photographer from the area who reported to me personally being very fearful just last week.”

Such open disregard for the law to the detriment of the law-abiding presents a thorny problem for the Berkowitz administration, which already is spending millions on the homeless only to have the problem worsen. Do you enforce the law or turn a blind eye?

Something must be done. We wish we had an answer, a magic solution. We do not. It is a complex problem that puts individual rights at odds with the law and what is best for the community.

Only one thing is certain: As time goes on, and when the weather gets better, the problem only will get worse.

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Latest comments

  • This is not a complex problem. Are there laws? Enforce them. period. period. period.

    If those who cannot abide by the norms of society fail to comply, remove from them the freedom to enjoy those norms. Arrest, jail or place in mental health care. Of course, those options are also bursting at the seams and expensive, so perhaps it is time to look at other more economical options. Remote group homes, isolated minimal security jails? Adak? Tents on Umnak Island at old Fort Glenn? What is the tolerance of society to anti-social behavior? Do we tolerate open drunkenness? Drugs? Rape? Murder? It is up to the population of Anchorage to determine. Either tolerate or address the dysfunction and force the dysfunctional to behave appropriately or face the consequences.

    • As our prisons and jail cells increasingly become repositories for the mentally ill, we continue to kick the problem of mental illness down the road. Thanks, Ronald Reagan.
      Eventually, the bills come due. Will we come to terms with this, or will we end up looking for some kind of “final solution?”

      • Don’t pin this on Reagan. He was my hero.

      • Thanks Ronald Reagan? He hasn’t held elected office in over 30 years and has been deceased for almost 16.
        Time to let it go Greg.

      • Actually this goes back to JFK and the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. Dealing with mental illness has always been one of the most difficult aspects of society, especially combined with the continued urbanization. The Community Mental Health Act opened many doors for many people, but unfortunately the current crisis before us is one of the unintended consequences.

  • It’s a lot easier to boss folks who want to do right than boss folks who care little about anything. There are still a lot of islands out in the Aleutians that need populating.

    • An island about 100 miles southwest of Kodiak would fit the bill there. Chirikof Island was used as a penal colony by Russia when they still owned Alaska. The Russians would drop off their dissidents, criminals and unwanted on Chirikof Island, no guards and no way off the island. The ‘inmates’ had to fend for themselves, form their own “pecking orders”, raise their food or catch it from the ocean. Survival was their problem, not their jailers’. Never heard of anyone escaping. Later, under American ownership, sheep and cattle ranching were tried on Chirikof by some enterprising ranchers. Didn’t work out. Too remote to keep ‘cowhands’ or shepherds there. The sheep were taken elsewhere. The cattle were mostly feral (wild) by that time and couldn’t all be corralled for removal. I don’t know about the present but 30 years ago, the feral cattle on Chirikof were legendary for aggression and ferocity (similar to Marmot Island and it’s wild cattle, near Kodiak). No people on Chirikof any more. Just a prison island waiting for occupants again. Much thought has also been given to Middleton Island, gulf of Alaska ( about 25 miles south of Montague Is.) for the ultimate maximum security facility. I guess it was declared ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and the idea was scrapped.

      • Iv’e seen feral cattle in the Aleutians and it freaked me out.

      • I recall having encountered Willie Stasche (don’t hesitate to correct my spelling) in about 1983 or 84. He had a plan, i.e. an idea that needed financing, to get cattle off some island (Chirikof, Umnak, or some other island). Willie or some other would be entrepreneur had some “cowhands” out in one of those islands, although cattle were there, the cowhands were starving. I think irony of cowhands starving around edible cattle made the front page of the Anchorage Times.

  • It’s all misdemeanor offenses. Can’t do too much.

  • Pandering to liberals. That’s all that matters. You have to drop that BS and follow laws and do the hard work. The ACLU only sides with those that don’t abide. Once the leaves are on the trees the “housing challenged “ or whatever BS PC word being used, will be under a bit more cover in the woods but will still be there, starting fires, polluting our creeks, strewing trash everywhere, stealing our property. Call it what it is: the truly “homeless” are seeking ways to not be homeless. They are utilizing services to find housing or a job. Looking for ways to get out of their predicament. Working with social service providers. The rest of them are people with deep seeded problems that need to go down another track for help before they will ever be able to function in our society. Berkowitz just wants more money all the time to hire more people at union cost to do???? What’s the plan??

  • A friend of mine has to drive into Anchorage from the Valley. She said it’s scary to be in Anchorage, and that it reminds her of a zombie apocalypse, because mostly what you see are the homeless taking over the town.

    • Have you ever thought of personal protection? Its pretty effective in a time like this.

  • Corona-chan cometh for the street….ahem defecator. Lack of social distancing, appalling hygiene, and all the underlying health issues not the least of which are smoking or drinking is going to result in far fewer public moonings. Those that won’t be helped can’t be helped.

    • Little Ethan’s Charge of the Poop Brigade.

  • There’s a large open lot just off of Old Seward Hwy and that property adjoins a restaurant called South. It would be an ideal location for a few tents and conveniently there is a ready food supply adjacent to the property.

  • General Bezerkowitz will always be remembered for his courageous battle cry when he led his brigade of poop scoopers through the homeless camps of downtown Anchorage and cried out, ” I’ve come to liberate you from our greatest enemy…………POOP!”

    • Was little General Ethan wearing his Napoleon military uniform while charging his battle cry at the Anchorage Homeless Fort? Or was it his Complex? The Battle of Poop Hill!

  • There’s nothing humane about letting people check out of society and live in squalor.

  • Remember, all of them likely voted in the last mail-in election whether they know it or not. They are a big percentage of the AK Democrats constituency, even the dead ones.

  • This should be an easy solve – just enforce the laws. Do some people need to be put in mental institutions for help? Absolutely. Those that flagrantly keep breaking laws need to be put on isolated islands where they can fend for themselves. Most states have the 3 time rule; you break the rules and the 3rd time, you’re out. I absolutely think should be applied in this case. Let people decide if they want rape, drugs, drunkenness, and ‘poop’ on their streets. If they don’t, then do something about it. How about remote group homes that allow zero alcohol and drugs? I do not think prison is the answer because of costs but remote group homes certainly could be an option. Folks, we all make choices; if they are bad ones repeatedly, then there should be repercussions. That’s all I am saying.

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