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Saturday, September 19, 2020
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Another solution for Anchorage homelessness

By DAN SULLIVAN, FORMER MAYOR OF ANCHORAGE

There has been extensive discussion over the last number of weeks regarding a plan put forth by the municipal administration for the purchase of four buildings which would be utilized for housing and treatment facilities for our ever growing homeless population.

The buildings include Beans Café off of 3rd Avenue, the Golden Lion Hotel on the corner of 36th Avenue and the New Seward Highway,  the former Alaska Club facility on Tudor Road and Alaska’s Best Value Hotel in Spenard.

The Golden Lion Hotel is located adjacent to one of the highest traffic volume intersections in the state.  Many have expressed legitimate concerns regarding the inherent danger of housing people with known substance abuse problems in such a high traffic area.

Just to the east of the hotel are large residential subdivisions, including Geneva Woods and College Village. The residents are rightly concerned about what may happen to the quality of life in their neighborhoods given the ever increasing level of crime attributed to some of the homeless population.

Similar concerns have been expressed by the residents and business owners near the proposed Tudor Road location, which is another high volume traffic area.  

People testifying at the Assembly meetings have shared their horror stories of the vandalism, blatant disregard for private property and the fear felt by the owners and residents who have been threatened and accosted by the vagrants who wander through in various states of impairment.

These are not your typical NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) concerns, because the entire Anchorage community has seen what has happened in the Fairview neighborhood, including the large encampment that developed at the Brother Francis, Beans Café complex and the many years of property damage that the surrounding neighbors have endured from the habituates of these facilities.

Another area of concern is the lack of transparency in the development of this purchase plan. Apparently money from the federal CARES program will be the source of funds, although it is not clear that this is even a proper use of these funds. The way the proposal was put forth with the intent to bypass the Planning and Zoning Commission is also troublesome. 

I believe there is a better solution. Out by Point Woronzof is the Salvation Army’s Clitheroe Center, a forty two bed facility that provides substance abuse treatment and recovery services.  It has been successfully providing treatment for decades. Although the Salvation Army is a religious-based organization, their treatment is provided with a totally secular methodology. 

The city owns thirty eight acres of undeveloped land surrounding the facility.  With far less that the $22 million the mayor is proposing to spend buying buildings, we could expand and modernize Clitheroe to accommodate many more clients than their current capacity. Money from the recently passed alcohol tax could be used to help operational costs and I believe the Anchorage community would support a bond issue to pay for the expansion, leaving the CARES money for its intended purpose, helping businesses and employees affected by the pandemic.

Additionally, The Salvation Army also owns a building on East 48th Avenue that has been previously used as a treatment facility and has the capacity for 65 clients.  It is now vacant and in need of repairs.  There was an estimate provided a couple of years ago that the needed upgrades could be accomplished for around $1.5 million.  

Apparently, the Salvation Army has presented these options to the municipality but were rebuffed.  It makes no sense to be buying buildings that are ill suited for the mayor’s intended purpose, and without a defined operational plan, when there are existing facilities available that can be expanded and upgraded to accomplish the mission.

Former Assembly Chairman Dan Coffey recently wrote to the current Chair Felix Rivera and suggested the upgrade and expansion of the Clitheroe facility as well as utilizing the eighteen acre Native Hospital site on 3rdAvenue for additional housing.  The municipality also owns this property 

When I was in office, we would survey the camp population as we cleaned them up and discovered that about 50 percent of the illegal campers had other housing options but preferred their lifestyle of inhabiting and despoiling our public spaces.

To address this, Mr. Coffey also suggested re-establishing the Municipal Court to deal with the homeless population that are committing various infractions, including trespass, public indecency, petty theft, vandalism, panhandling in traffic, etc.

As he pointed out, it is a Class A misdemeanor to illegally camp in a park or public space, punishable for up to one year confinement. For repeat offenders, the court could confine them to one of the treatment facilities where there is a chance of rehabilitation. Mr. Rivera responded to Mr. Coffey’s thoughtful suggestion by saying that they’ve looked at extending services to Clitheroe and it didn’t pencil out.  I don’t believe that to be true.  

As for the Municipal Court, he said he and Assembly member Zalatel did not want to criminalize the homeless.  He clearly doesn’t understand the difference between those who would welcome housing and those who will not voluntarily give up their dangerous lifestyle; dangerous to both them and Anchorage residents.

None of us should have to avoid our trails and parks because we don’t know who is in the woods and what condition they are in.

The bottom line is there are solutions other than spending $22 million of CARES funds.  What seems to be lacking is the will of our elected officials to use and to expand the tools already available, which would be a win-win for the homeless and the Anchorage taxpayers.

Dan Sullivan was mayor of Anchorage from 2009-2015.                                                                                                                                   

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Latest comments

  • A very good idea, but comrade Berkowitz and his commies will not go for it. It’s a shame Dan, that you’re not still our mayor…..

  • Thank-you Mayor Dan. The plain simple truth is sometimes the hardest thing to accept, especially when you have your mind set on what’s obviously the WRONG thing to do. The current mayor and his minions are truly like the petulant two year old, hell bent on getting its way, come hell or high water. I hope for Anchorage’s sake, that its citizens wake up and fight like hell over being closed out of assembly meetings and stand up to the illegal activities of the mayor’s beloved darlings. Enough is enough! If this continues, it sets dangerous and irreversible precedents.

  • Thank you, Mayor Dan, for your insight. I could not agree more. These, as well as other ideas worthy of consideration, have been presented but the assembly seems to have already made their collective mind up and now refuse to listen to the people of Anchorage. I just this morning received an email notification of a meeting tonight, so the process to move ahead is alive and well.

  • Dan please run for Mayor.

  • Oh, the voice of reason and truth is so wonderful! Dan Sullivan, I wish you were our mayor.

  • Dan Sullivan, please run for mayor of Anchorage and know that you will have enough votes to put you in the job. The city should be sick of Berkowitz and his three musketeers. We need good business direction and someone that has a level head to think through problems. The mayor we have now is not in the realm of good thinking for Anchorage or the real job being a mayor.

  • Really like these ideas far,far better than the BERKOWITZ PLAN. Forone thing, much harder to find booze or drugs outthere. Another, purpose designed buildings . And lastltSA has a looo nnngggg history of working with the inebriate also work opportunities and much more with SA.

  • I believe I can think of a simple solution. Enforce the current laws pertaining to vagrancy, trespass, liquor, drugs, assault, rape, coercion, it’s a long list. Criminality, being enabled by lack of law enforcement and leftist “leadership”, encourages thugs, criminals of every description, drug addicts and assorted ‘anti-everything’ individuals to do as they please. A huge part of that is not ‘obey the law’, have regard for society or try to make a better life. Why should they? They are doing exactly what they want to do, at someone else’s expense. Legitimate homeless people, families and individuals in need, make up a miniscule percentage of the “homeless” busily wrecking Anchorage. Help the legitimate needy citizens, who obey most laws anyway, and start enforcing ordnances and law, like the job description of police leads one to believe. The rest of the would be ‘homeless’ will move on to easier pickings and/or a change in lifestyle. Who knows? Maybe a few will even get a job.

  • The irony in this plan is he recognizes the “many years of property damage that the surrounding neighbors have endured from the habituates of these facilities” and the constant abuse the 3rd Avenue property owners have endured for over 3 decades, but then goes on to propose continuing to consolidate homeless housing in the area through the use of the former Native Hospital site only furthering the devastation and destruction of a neighborhood currently trying to rebuild itself. Sorry Dan, your plan to continue to sacrifice my neighborhood to the homeless is a failure. Try again, because the Native Hospital Site is a non-starter for this 3rd Avenue property owner.

    • I agree the Third Avenue site is nonnegotiable. It is too close to Fairview and we have suffered the burden of this for too long it is not a Fairview issue it is a city issue thank you

      I have constant issues with people sitting on my property and arguing with me leaving beer cans paper all sorts of things. This Has to stop please do not put the burden back in our neighborhood. Just two doors down from me in a vacant lot a couple of weeks ago a woman was sexually assaulted.
      I’ve inquired why property owners with unattended vacant lots In residential areas should be required to enclose them. This vacant lot has needles papers people use the restroom in this vacant lot and as I mentioned before a woman with sexually Assaulted in this vacant lot within the last two weeks!

    • Hi Rob – I get your point and I don’t disagree. I was relaying the ideas that Dan Coffey had sent to Felix Rivera. I am focused more on the Salvation Army’s properties.

  • Mayor Dan’s excellent common sense solutions again strike to the heart of the problem. Overspending on existing buildings in the heart of Anchorage is just lazy thinking. The city owns enough Point Woronzoff land to choke an airport. My concern would be that the end of the runway is very close to the Clitheroe facility. Then again, it’s never been a problem before. Take up this banner and wave it! Who knows, someone might even act upon it!

  • The last time I saw a plan to build out the Clitheroe Center for substance abuse and other homeless services the price had ballooned to over 50 million dollars. Under this Assembly all work has to be done by specific unions. Also the road to the center would be required, under this Administration, to be upgraded. Any time the city builds something it costs more. The idea of a new building on the old Native Hospital land Is a non starter if government has to build it.
    I agree with the Mayor that we should hold people responsible for their actions. Sure, the Ninth Circuit Court has said you can’t stop someone from camping if there is no other place for them to go but that doesn’t give them the right to break the other laws of the Municipality. Unfortunately, if it is homeless the police department and the fire department ignore laws and codes.
    Unfortunately, under the current Mayor and Assembly I am wasting my time writing this.

    • Hi Tom – Having visited there, something I don’t believe any Assembly member has done, there is no way it would cost $50 milliion. The road is just fine – not designed for high traffic use but perfectly usable and maintained year round. The $22 milllion the mayor wants to steal from the CARES fund would get the job done. Plus, I didn’t mention it in my article, but there’s $15 million from the ML&P sale for this purpose as well.

  • One is tempted to believe that installing alcohol/drug “problem children” in high traffic locations might be an attempt to reduce Anchroage’s “homeless” population.

    Think that through because “Mr. Secret Meeting” Mayor Progressive really hopes you won’t.

  • These programs secular approach is going to have to change their approach to a Christ approach, these peoples need a Jesus intervention to break their slave mindset. Homeless and public housing tenements won’t go away and Future Republican leaders will be looked upon no different than democrat slave masters because of they couldn’t decrease their homeless cause they couldn’t break these peoples slave mindset.

  • Clithroe need change their secular to a Christ approach. These people are slaves, and the only way they will recieve freedom breakthrough is Christ. These organizations without goldly christ filled peoples manning their boards and offices are only managing sharecropping programs continuing homeless slavery bondaging their clients to addiction, abuse, and mental health disorders.

    Republicans were the ones whose history broke the slave system. These peoples have a slave mindest needing broken that only a Christ intervention can break not more money into government secular programs.

    • I’m Christian too, but can assure you that, while Christ will save their souls, he can do nothing about their mental illness. These people need professional help and not feel-good worship.

  • Given the scope of the homelessness and drugs and alcohol problems, Alaska could probably use this plan, and 2020-66.

  • Once again the most common sense ideas are rejected out of hand and one has to wonder why?

  • please run again mayor Dan.

  • Dan, I was hoping you’d run for U.S. Senator. Be way too much fun if we had two Dan Sullivans in the Senate. Perhaps Bernadette Wilson could win Mayor.

  • Let me open a community camp on the 38 acres and I will raise any necessary funds. I will take all the people that you don’t want and it won’t cost you a dime.

    • I agree makes perfect sense to me

  • Youre not going to resolve this issue without first acknowledging and then implementing a plan that cares for the mentally ill, which is the majority of these homeless. This is not just a bunch of shiftless lazy drunken people who refuse to work, but people who are broken by mental illness. I live in Spenard and see it daily, I also have an uncle who ended up in prison as a schizophrenic because there is literally nowhere to place him.
    Clitheroe and the Salvation Army are great at spiritual matters, but lousy at psychology. The record for continued recovery with AA is abysmal and should not be considered as a viable treatment for this large number of mentally ill people who need medical treatment and not a blue ticket out of Anchorage.
    Another problem is the constitutionality of busing the unwanted out of the city.

  • Actually, the alcohol tax should be repealed.

  • Not much to be done until we get shoplifting under control. Most businesses have a “hands off” policy that gives anyone unfettered access to alcohol, food or anything else required to maintain their lifestyles. We need an anti shoplifting task force and penalties that mean something!

  • Last night I saw the muni spreadsheet with proposed spending of the Cares act for the state of AK. There are line items for “economic stimulus” and property acquisition in the tens of millions of dollars. Nowhere are these appropriations outlined in the Cares for Covid Relief as used for the money. Homelessness has been an issue long before the virus. Using millions to buy buildings and offer stimulus to pet projects is an illegal use of The Cares funds. Small business and restaurants have no access to Cares if they received the first small Fed payout or PPP loan. The mayor continues to mandate the service industry and punish them singularly for the virus without giving access to funds for seizing our property.
    Perhaps he needs reminding the fifth and fourteenth amendments rights of his constituents. Lest we forget HE is OUR employee.

  • Mayor Dan, I liked you when you were mayor and would talk about Anchorage on the radio about all kinds of issues and would explain it to where it would make sense to a person like me

  • Why spend funds when the Muni already owns property that would be more substantial for this as well as bring less issues to property owners?

    Especially, if that is not what the CARES fund are for! That’s misuse of federal funds and could cost us residents in the future!

    Is Berkowitz trying to help our friends that own those properties? Sounds fishy!

  • “As for the Municipal Court, he said he and Assembly member Zalatel did not want to criminalize the homeless.” This would not criminalize the homeless, it would enforce current laws that those who are not inebriates must adhere to.

  • There are many muni parks, supported by all of our taxes, BTW, that are far too dangerous for us to enjoy. There are homeless encampments everywhere, and human excrement all over the place. A Port-A-Potty or two will Not solve this problem! The filth, trash, and garbage are self-regenerative and endless. I have enjoyed camping all of my life, and I hike, bike, hunt, fish, etc. If I am out in the backwoods and “nature calls,” I pack out Everything. It is not pleasant or safe to try to hike through biological trash!

    If the Point W. site can be made to work, some of the homeless folks who would appreciate a better living situation might truly take better care of the property, feel more inclined to work toward independent living and employment, and would be safe, healthier, and perhaps even happier!

    If I give X amount of money to my church or a charitable institution and designate how it must be spent, if that organization accepts my funds toward new carpeting, roof repair, a grand piano, or whatever, it is illegal to use that money toward buying buildings for other people, throwing a big pizza party, or some other purpose. Berkowitz scares me!

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