The Sept. 12 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly will again take up consideration of a navigation center for the homeless in Anchorage, a concept that has been advocated for by Mayor Dave Bronson’s since he was elected, but which has been blocked by the hostile Assembly majority that is bent on destroying the mayor and has used the homeless crisis as a weapon.
Assemblyman Randy Sulte says that a navigation center, a place where homeless can be directed toward housing, social services, and health care, could be set up at the former waste transfer site on 56th Ave.
The center would be situated in midtown, the heart of Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel’s district. She runs the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, a nonprofit that pays her well over six figures to oversee the city’s homeless industrial complex. The coalition has proven largely ineffective in addressing homelessness.
Recently, Solid Waste Services opened up a new waste transfer site at 1208 E. 56th Ave, and vacated the one next door at 1140 E. 56th. The vacated site is 448,000 square feet of fenced area, with a sheltered maintenance garage building of about 14,400 square feet and a two-story administration building of about 4,800 square feet, which has offices, bathrooms, showers, a kitchen, and lockers that were once used by waste management workers.
Sulte is asking the Assembly to approve a resolution that asks the mayor to make a good-faith effort to evaluate the site for use as a navigation center.
The mayor’s original plan, approved of and mostly funded by the Assembly, was never built after the Assembly’s hostile majority became incensed that the mayor had gone ahead with site preparation work at the Elmore and Tudor Roads site he had chosen for the navigation center, without final procedural approval. Instead of having the center ready for last winter, the homeless had to go back to the Sullivan Arena, and the project has now been abandoned because of the Assembly’s change of heart.
Even though the materials for the proposed Elmore-Tudor center had been agreed to and mostly paid for by Assembly appropriation, they sit in warehouses in Eagle River and in materials yards in the Lower 48, ever since the hostile majority pulled its support.
Currently, tent and trailer encampments are spread throughout greenbelts and byways of Anchorage, as temperatures drop into the mid-40s at night. The standoff by the hostile Assembly has pushed the homeless crisis into the fall of 2023, giving the mayor few choices for how to keep homeless people safe.
Mayor Bronson has already stated that the Sullivan Arena, now cleaned up and repaired after being used as cold-weather emergency shelter since 2020, will not be used again for that purpose. He wants to return it to an entertainment venue, the purpose for which taxpayers approved when it was built. The destruction of the property by the vagrants and addicts that used it over the past three years was costly to repair.
The Sulte resolution would repurpose a recently vacated public building and property and would ask the mayor to request an appropriation from the Assembly to remodel the site.
Homeless navigation centers are low-barrier emergency shelters that also connect homeless people with services and pathways to permanent housing. The clients for these types of shelters are typically those who are at the bottom of the economic rung, who have severe drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues, and no families willing or able to take them in. Low barrier means that there are few rules or requirements for sobriety, as there are in most shelters.
The Assembly meets at the ground floor of the Loussac Library on 36th Avenue, and meetings begin at 5 pm.