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Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness says it will help, then refuses to help people at Centennial Park, then says it may help out after all … depending

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness told its partners on Monday that it would do outreach services to help rehouse homeless people at the Centennial Campground.

Within a few hours, the group said it was withdrawing all of its outreach services to the campground, which had been turned into a space for homeless people earlier this month, when wildfires in the unsupervised camps around Anchorage green spaces posed a major threat to life and property.

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“Due to the continued lack of site control and dangerous conditions at Centennial Park, ACEH will no longer direct or coordinate outreach teams to Centennial,” the coalition said in its email to its partners and the municipality.

ACEH is run by Meg Zaletel, who in addition to running Anchorage’s homeless industrial complex also wears another hat — being a sitting Anchorage Assembly member. The Assembly pays her salary both on the Assembly and in large part at ACEH through appropriations of taxpayer dollars. She makes a six-figure salary at ACEH, which had a budget last year of more than $1.2 million.

In a letter to the mayor recently, Zaletel demanded that sanctioned camping be offered as one of the options for the homeless, particularly for the people who were illegally camping around the city and who were not willing to go to shelters. But once the campground was established, ACEH got busy to try to develop a revenue stream for some of its coalition partners who sit on the ACEH board.

Salvation Army is not one of those official partners, in that they don’t have a seat on the board. But Salvation Army is willing to work with the municipality to coordinate services, “client care coordination, feeding, intensive case management, and managing the plethora of donations coming in,” as one person close to the situation put it.

Critics say ACEH had not done that much at the homeless camp, but hang a couple of tarps and that Zaletel showed up for a photo opportunity.

By Wednesday, Zaletel had done an about face. Now, ACEH says it will see what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours, and may get reinvolved.

“As someone who has visited Centennial almost every day since the Sullivan closed, the tremendous improvements over other unsanctioned sites in Anchorage are obvious,” Mayor Bronson said in a statement late Monday. “I truly believe we are at our best when we set aside politics and work together, and I’m grateful for the many stakeholders who share that vision.”

Meanwhile, another camp-raiding black bear has been dispatched at the campground, the fifth that has had to be destroyed since about 200 people relocated to the camping sites, where the campers have toilets, running water, wi-fi and cleared areas where they can set up tents and tarps.

Bears have been destroyed in this tract of land east of Muldoon several times per year for at least a decade. The surrounding mountains and foothills provide a seemingly endless supply of black bears.

Anchorage has plenty of problems with black bears; five people in Anchorage have been killed by bears in since 2014, and there have been numerous attacks by black bears in the municipality area over the past many years.

One person has died at the camp, but not by a bear attack. It was a drug overdose death, not uncommon among the homeless. But there was also a “Narcan save” that same night in that camp as the on-scene team at Centennial was able to save the other person at that campsite who had overdosed.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Socialism is fun as long as someone else pays for it – so much the better if they pay you. Socialism is attractive until you run out of other people’s money to spend… Killing bears (I hope they are eating them) is cheaper than fixing the Sully, and likely nutMeg is angling for a pay raise. ACEH needs to get with the program or shut down. Mayor Bronson is correct in making the best possible of a terrible situation.

  2. Zaletel is guilty of misappropriation or funds and collusion to defraud the taxpayers of Anchorage. The ACEH is attempting to marginalize the administration and keep their finger in the pie at the sake time. funny how the money moves.

  3. So, are we trying to do a little conflating?

    “Anchorage has plenty of problems with black bears; five people in Anchorage have been killed by bears in since 2014, and there have been numerous attacks by black bears in the municipality area over the past many years.”

    Question: How many of those bear related deaths were the result of a mauling by a black bear?

    Well, it’s like this: Statewide, over a period of eighteen years, three people were killed by black bears.

    “According to a 2019 report from Alaskan health officials, 68 people in the state were hospitalized because of bear attacks from 2000 to 2017, and 10 people were killed by bears during the same period. Seven of the fatal attacks involved brown bears, and three involved black bears.”

  4. The “Coalition” has no desire to end homelessness. If they did, they are out of business.

    It’s not rocket science.

    • Not just out of business, but out of enemies and causes to fill their egos while they have fun get-togethers to discuss strategies at coffee shops while wearing xtra tuffs and patagucci, sharing heartwarming stories about how sweet and appreciative some of the homeless people are, fueling their motivation and making them feel oh so good about what they are doing. Giggling and laughing and warming each others hearts while they keep finding ways to enable destructive lifestyles that make people dependent on them, and on and on it goes. It’s not just about money. It’s like the mom that ultimately takes pride in that her kids only want her coming to the rescue every time they fall down. That mom will probably say it is exhausting, but it is just because she enjoys the humble brag of being a martyr. They don’t really think they are doing any harm to their kids until it is too late, and even then they will commonly say that they were just doing the best they could with their challenging kids and commonly never accept that they created the challenge. This homeless problem is no different. The gender and sexuality stuff is also following the same pattern.

  5. “So, are we trying to do a little conflating?……..How many of those bear related deaths were the result of a mauling by a black bear?……..”
    Might it be a bit of indirect prophesy, Bob? How long before a several hundred pound brown bear roams in and finds a jar of peanut butter on the picnic table? Let’s see…….this subsidized, supervised camping has been going on for about three weeks. We’ve got half a dozen destroyed black bears, a shot police officer and “camper”, a fatal overdose (with another close overdose save), and doubtlessly much more drama and fun in store before local government will be on the hot plate to store these people in a heated environment for the winter. I’d estimate another half dozen dead black bears, and at least one grizzly getting at least a rubber slug on his rump.
    So, trying to get ahead of the inevitable (which the Assembly appears dead set to avoid), where is the warm storage for the 200 happy campers?…………

  6. The bears appear to be homeless and just want to take advantage of the new campground. Bear Lives Matter.

  7. So much for those who said Centennial Park was orderly!!!! I believe I originally posted this statement, “just wait!”

  8. Isn’t this the SOLE purpose for ACEH existence and all those tax dollars they have received? Centennial park certainly has more security than the illegal camps in green belts every had.
    Interestingly now that Salvation Army is partnering with the city and doing it without the drama, one is left to wonder if ACEH deliberately left the mayor hanging. Being a practical proactive guy the mayor found a solution without the fickle ACEH people.
    As an aside, do we know how many police call outs there were at the Sully while it was a shelter?

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