Bronson and Johnson: Let’s make year-round shelter a priority

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By MAYOR DAVE BRONSON AND ALEXIS JOHNSON

Wednesday’s weather was a strong reminder that winter is always nearby. Snowfall in May seemed like an impossible feat, yet less than 48 hours after the closing of Anchorage’s largest low-barrier shelter – temps dropped below freezing and it began to snow. At the time, an estimated 800 people were living unsheltered outdoors. We can and should do better. 

This is a warning call before next winter; we need year-round shelter. Cities and towns across the country struggle to provide adequate shelter to those in need, particularly during the winter months. However, the problem of homelessness does not disappear once the snow melts and the temperatures rise. We see this right now with the closure of the Sullivan, the need is higher than ever. Year-round, there is a lack of low-barrier shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Anchorage. 

Low-barrier shelters provide a place to sleep and have basic amenities without many of the restrictions that traditional shelters have. For example, low-barrier shelters may allow pets, couples, and people with active substance use disorders. They may also have fewer restrictions or barriers on the time of day when individuals can come and go or allow people to bring in their own belongings. 

Unfortunately, many cities do not have enough low-barrier shelters to meet the needs of their homeless populations, Anchorage is no different. This leaves many people on the streets year-round, vulnerable to the elements and without a safe place to sleep at night. The consequences of this lack of shelter can be devastating, leading to illness, injury, and even death.

Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic made the need for low-barrier shelters even more urgent. Social distancing guidelines had forced many shelters to reduce their capacity, leaving more people without a place to sleep. The pandemic also highlighted the need for more resources to support those experiencing homelessness, including access to healthcare and mental health services.

One solution to the lack of low-barrier shelter is the Tudor/Elmore Navigation Center and Shelter, which is currently a project that has been halted. If constructed, this new facility will provide at least 150 beds for people experiencing homelessness, as well as case management, job training, and other supportive services. It will be open year-round and will operate on a low-barrier model, with few restrictions on who can stay. 

We have an opportunity before next winter to reimagine what low barrier shelter looks like in Anchorage. Year after year, we continue to learn from the mistakes of our past. With winter 2023/24 right around the corner, let’s take the wins with the losses, and refocus our sights on what shelter looks like this year. 

The Tudor/Elmore Navigation Center and Shelter is an important step forward in addressing homelessness in Anchorage. However, it is just one piece of a larger puzzle. Providing year-round low-barrier shelters is not a simple task, but it is a necessary one. It requires collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community members. It also requires a willingness to think creatively and to look for solutions beyond the traditional shelter model.

One example of this kind of innovative thinking is the tiny home village model, which has been successfully implemented in several cities. These villages provide small, private dwellings for individuals experiencing homelessness, along with access to communal spaces and supportive services. This model has proven to be effective at reducing homelessness and improving the health and well-being of those who live in these villages.

Ultimately, we must recognize that homelessness is not just a winter problem. It is a year-round crisis that demands our attention and our resources. Providing low-barrier shelter is a crucial step in addressing this crisis and helping those who are most vulnerable in our communities. It is time for our leaders to act and make year-round low barrier shelter a priority.

Mayor Dave Bronson was elected to lead Alaska’s largest city in 2021; Alexis Johnson is the municipality’s homeless coordinator.

51 COMMENTS

  1. How about taking steps to get the homeless off the streets and back into society?

    Warehousing them doesn’t fix anything.

    • I see that’s today leaders goal is provide housing first expecting changes will follow. I always looked at homeless this way continue feeding the crumbs to them just enough to keep them walking. But, Invest more attention to improving k-12 education cutting all the crap, poor performing teachers, and greed out, so communities aren’t increasing the homeless by continuing an education producing illiterates and underachievers,
      If all the God haters don’t want to bring Jesus into changing people . But even a highly educated society w/o knowing God can’t deter them from making bad decisions.

    • I’m sorry, but did you not read the article that is exactly what it is talking about doing and it is a first step to getting people back into society and yes it does seem like they are being warehoused, but you must do this in a way that is cost effective and that means many beds in an open area.

  2. Since when does anyone owe these addicts a thing? I know it pricks everyone’s Christian conscience to see people without a means of support, but they did it to themselves and they aren’t going to start making smart choices by being given everything they need to be able to continue using/drinking. Consequences are what change behavior. I work for a living, I pay my bills, I even put a fair bit in the collection plate, to help those truly in need (temporarily), but I don’t think it is Christian charity to affirm people in their self destruction.

    The “homeless” provide a great way for those like Meg Zalatel to gain financially off our taxes. It does nothing to solve the problem in any meaningful way. Just say no.

    • It is a grey area. The left loves to play the Good Samaritan card, but since they don’t get the faith, they blow it.

      The Samaritan got the injured man shelter to recover from injuries. Not to provide a long term lifestyle.

      Still the faith requires we help where and how we can. Even if we disagree with the choices of the people we’re helping. However, it does not require us to commit economic or cultural suicide in the process.

    • Your assumption that they are all addicted to drugs makes your comment absurd. What about the ones with mental health issues? Get out more.. go volunteer at a shelter do something before you spew out a comment like that.

    • I do believe the contract change the Administration put though was the bait and switch.

      This is Bronson trying to get the people of Anchorage to pay for the gotta support my campaign funders with a multi-million dollar blunder at Elmore and Tudor.

  3. How about using the money that most of these people already receive from government subsidies and direct it to pay for their own care instead of making it a property tax burden. Help the ones who are not to navigate the system. If we continue to feed and house them, they just have more money to spend on harmful substances.

  4. Homelessness is not a “crisis”. Maybe sleeping out in the snow is exactly what some of these people need to say “hey, this sucks, maybe I should take the steps to become self sufficient.”
    It’s not my duty to feed and house adults who refuse to so for themselves.
    A Buck gets 10 that this shelter, like all the others, will create more bums not fewer.

  5. Why don’t Alaska Native Corporations support and provide for those who are members of their families?

    • Ever hear of Cook Inlet Housing Joan?

      Or medical case management through behavioral health at South Central Foundation?

      Those are a couple I know of.

      • And yet, it isn’t solving the problem, is it? You might also realize that it isn’t the Natives that pay for those programs, either. And yet, it is the Natives that foist their children with fetal alcohol syndrome and substance abuse issues on Anchorage. Funny how that works.

      • So when are they going to pony up? I have never heard of them addressing the homeless problem on a large scale instead of offering the normal people free medical and a place to stay while in Anchorage.

        • Would you rather a boat parade so you can hear about their work? Or the usual flags, guns and trucks to demonstrate the additions about town for low income renters? And medical case management that assists in finding and getting those folks off the street and into appropriate housing, with medical and psychiatric support in effort to sustain gains and stay off the streets?

          • The fact is, Maureen, the threshold for qualifying for subsidized housing is an income of $30,000 annually. The peak earning years for this population is the twenties to mid thirties, when they are shoved out of the work force. The homeless population in Anchorage tends to be post 35 years of age and they remain underemployed or unemployed until death. Thus, “the homeless” never financially “qualify” for housing from Cook Inlet. More’s the pity. You have known this for a very long time.

    • Here is SE both Goldbelt and Sealaska do to a degree. Problem is, when the villages dump their rejects on Juneau, like happens in Anchorage, it strains the ability to respond.

      As long as Alaska is using homelessness as a growth industry, nobody can keep up with it.

      Sadly, that’s the point. To overrun the system and turn it to their political advantage.

  6. It is sad and disappointing to see Mayor Bronson pandering, just like a typical radical leftist, to the homeless-industrial complex and to the most dysfunctional dregs of society, most of whom, from what I have seen, have given up on any semblance of a civilized existence and are determined to commit slow-motion suicide. I say let them.

  7. If you continue to feed and house the seagulls, they will always be a problem… When you start giving them special shelters etc that is solving nothing. These people have chosen their lives. Or they would not be living outside like animals.
    Life is about choice.
    They are CHOOSING to be homeless and a drain on society. I’m sorry we do not owe these people anything. Homeless flock to areas like this that coddle them…. Thus, contributing to the ever growing lack of morals and drugs on the streets. Zero sympathy for them!

    • Head injured in various conflicts homeless vets living in the woods: Daisy Mae Jones. Says you’re on your own.

  8. Does anybody else see the irony in having Muni posted signs at intersections saying; Don’t Feed the Homeless, and at the same time having the Muni feeding the homeless, so to speak? It’s just not making any sense.

  9. It is not a legitimate role of government to house or feed or shelter anyone or to spend public funds reintegrating these people back into society. It’s all just welfare that productive citizens are forced to pay for. Learn the lesson of the rabbits…you feed the starving rabbits and what do you get? MORE RABBITS! Works exactly the same way with the homeless and other unproductive people who are just a burden on the rest of us. They’re responsible for themselves and their situation and if you’re desperate to help them then free free to step right up with your cash but stop trying to reach into our pockets to fund your bleeding heart agenda.

  10. The more money that any ‘Governmental’ agency ‘throws’ at a supposed ‘problem’, the larger that problem becomes, especially a profitable one. Just ask Meg Zaletel, who has profited from homelessness as a business model.

    The solution to homelessness begins, and ultimately ends, with the individual themselves, having arrived unto the situation they are in is no longer acceptable to them within their own individual circumstance.

    Yes, there are those that suffer from mental issues that prevent them from making said determination logically, as there always has been, though the difference now is that there is no location for them to reside because of said mental illness because the current mindset is that said individuals enjoy, or suffer, take your pick, from the freedom of their own choices of which only hurt them individually, rather than instituting them within a safer environment and garner unto their needs, such as API did so many years ago.

    A massive, so called low-barrier shelter shall mix those that are temporarily down upon their luck with those that are free to continue their self-destructive behavior through substance abuse, as well as those that are not mentally capable of living within a productive leaning societal establishment.

    One must wonder just how long it will be, before a violent episode occurs causing injury or death to one, or many other individuals at the hands of those that are allowed to reside next to them within the hold of their substance abuse or mentally disabled ‘neighbors’.

    Once again, the solution unto homelessness begins, and ultimately ends within the individual, and their own life decisions.

    The support system for those currently homeless, and those that shall become so, is quite simple.

    The individual themself takes precedence over said responsibility.

    Then the family.

    Then the neighborhood.

    Then the church.

    Then the community through private donations and volunteerism.

    Afterwards, there is no purpose to assist the individual beyond that.

    As they are beyond any response that could truly help them.

    Governmental assistance is but a canard, as it only enriches those who choose to be a part of the business of homelessness, without any regard for the actual homelessness themselves, as they are not individuals to those who employ Governmental assistance, but merely numbers so as to further enrich the Homeless Industrial Complex.

    Again, looking at you, Meg Zaletel.

    Individuals, Neighbors, and Communities care about Individuals, Neighbors, and Communities.

    Governmental agencies care about numbers.

    Nothing more.

  11. C’mon Anchorage assembly, make it work! Clean the smudge of your eye wear, swallow your leftist pride and learn to work with the Mayor!

  12. Bronson has never provided an operating budget, you could probably rent 75 2- bedbmotel rooms for what that albatross would cost to operate.

  13. If people could actually own their homes instead of being forced to pay protection money to the MUNICIPAL BOROUGHS every year, maybe there world not be so many homeless people. Actually, no one owns anything. Everything belongs to the State/STATE including the “vehicles”. These corporations need to come clean and admit what they really are – the State of Alaska, Inc., and the STATE OF ALASKA INC., and all their sub-corporations and franchises stealing from the people. We should demand full disclosure.

  14. Let’s all get behind Bronson & Johnson and help make a positive change. They’re committed to making this positive change, as er their plan, it makes sense. If at any point there are problems discovered with the plan, then we can adjust accordingly. The time is now to make meaningful progress.

  15. Lets make a “shelter” on fire island and ship them all there!
    free drugs, bud light, smirnoff & a bunch of MREs.
    Problem solved!

  16. On April 18, 2023, President Trump made clear in a speech, how to address homelessness: ban it, arrest those who are homeless, and forcibly remove them to incarceration. Since disagreeing with President Trump is tantamount to blasphemy and treason, I assume all true Christians will agree that criminalizing the homeless is moral. On the plus side, most liberals are renters—not homeowners, so a policy of arresting and jailing homeless, and charging them with felonies would apply. Throwing liberals in jail is an excellent way to rebalance voter rolls, and ensure conservative dominion over Anchorage.

    • “Pretty Boy,” what modeling school powdered you up and got you smiling?

    • Darn, you don’t believe the US Constitution or republic exists. It does. I’ll share my inheritance with you.

  17. Bronson is trying to get out of the bind he’s in with regards to his commitment to Hickel. He’ll do anything to protect himself, including sticking it to the local taxpayers to house the street bums!

    I’m tired of all the goody-goody windbags, including Bronson! It’s time for him to go!

    • Yup.
      Attempting to house miscreants is a guaranteed failed policy.
      Start enforcing laws that were set up to deal with this problem after the Great Depression.
      Loitering, vagrancy, public intoxication, trespassing, anti-panhandling ordinances, shoplifting – zero tolerance.
      Problem solved.

      • You mean when all the negroes were hanging out wihout jobs and vagrancy laws were enacted. That was back following the Civil War.

  18. Mayor Bronson’s navigation center would have gone a long way toward finding solutions for those who want them and we could have built it already for far less cost than the assembly’s housing first agenda.

    Yesterday, assemblyman Rivera said “”Fairview and Downtown have had to bear a disproportionate brunt of this issue for years. The Assembly made the policy decision to end this inequity”. Equity and inequity, the magic words again! In this case it means make EVERY neighborhood unsafe. The assembly prefers to fund housing for the homeless all over town at our expense.

    It’s true that some people are temporarily down on their luck or suffering from trauma or mental issues. Many are addicts and/or repeatedly victimize others through theft or violence. Mayor Bronson wants to find solutions for as many of these as possible but the assembly’s housing first model and providing multiple hotels has the effect of inviting non-working people up from other states.

    How is Meg Zaletel allowed to double dip getting both assembly pay and homeless coordinator pay? She had one house when first elected but while working on homeless she’s accumulated four houses last time I checked. Do you really think she wants to work herself out of a job?

    • Close the Loussac Library and convert it into a Bronson "navigation center" for the homeless: Everybody wins! It's damn near as good as winning a mega-lottery!

      Turn the Loussac Library into a center for the homeless. The local residents are basically illiterate, so shutting down the joint would hardly impact their lives. As for the local literati, they make little use of the building. Just think of how many weary souls the municipality can warehouse in the building!

      Consider the incentives: The rabid conservatives can sidestep the issue of having to deal with the library personnel and library pornography, and the bleeding-heart liberals can store their riffraff in a building nice enough to be considered by the major as being a worthy enough site for a navigation center!

      • Edit: “nice enough to be considered by the mayor….”

  19. Hey Maureen, let me ask you a question as a professional. How do you think a long term program would successfully deal with the homeless population? I see the homeless population divided into two groups; those that have become homeless and are trying to get out and those that are homeless and chose to stay that way. Generally speaking, my opinion is that any available programs should go 100% to anyone trying to get out of homelessness. I have no energy to spare for anyone that chooses homelessness as I can’t help someone that does not want to be helped.

    So, how do we separate people that need the help from people that just want a place to sleep before they get stoned again? And as a observer of human actions, I’ve seen that simply giving someone food, clothing, and shelter for free doesn’t have a great track record of ending homelessness. Children and parents with underage children need to go the the head of the line, followed by any adults. These are limited budgets so repeat rule breakers need to be tossed out of available programs. Think like an organ transplant board; would you give an organ to a junkie who’s not trying to get clean?

    • Well, you can’t make people do things they don’t want to.

      Also, I think shelters have a 30 day rule, at least Bro Francis did. That was an incentive towards permanent housing to perk interest

      You’re questions are thoughtful and right on. I sat on the Homeless group in two different jobs I had-first with homeless teenagers, and much later with homeless HIV clients. For some reason folks think there are not systems in place that have figured all this already and have been proven successful ready to go on all your concern, but are trying to invent a bunch of services that are out there already, by untrained folks. (Bronson refused long standing provider support and said only new businesses could get Sullivan contract.)

      If you haven’t read about the Housing First Model of service delivery, do. It will touch on questions you have. Then read about Motivational Interviewing-a highly effective way of sorting where folks are about lessening their use or even come around to the idea that housing would be good.

      May I suggest you contact RuRAL CAP regarding homeless outreach they do and their work to get homeless to sucessfully homed? I know that the VA also does homeless outreach and housing-Paull, you be more familiar with that environment and kind of client. Give them a call and ask them how they do these things. (I also noticed two ‘L’s on Paul. Is that still Paul the vet?)

      • Still me. Just fat fingered the keyboard and wasn’t bright enough to proof read. My apologies to two of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Anderson and Mrs Gulsvig. Their teaching me proper English was like teaching a fish to walk a tightrope.

        The only exposure to officially dealing with homelessness is occasionally with some of my former soldiers. And we are, shall we say, a ‘unique’ group. I have no formal training.

        I’ve long been accused of being cold hearted because I’m willing to cut loose a certain amount of the homeless population. First there always seemed to be programs available if anyone just asked. Second, as I stated earlier, with a finite budget, each program needs to prioritize who they help first. And last, the older I get the less BS I feel I need to deal with in life, so if you don’t want the help, you shouldn’t get it.

        I have no inside knowledge from Bronson’s staff, but maybe he just looked at all the strings (people) attached to existing programs and decided that starting from scratch would be less troublesome?

        • You know one of the reasons I comment is to practice my written English skills, so I hear appreciation for English teachers. I need to proofread better.

          Bronson purposefully adjusted the content of contract verbage on the Tudor Road Project with Hickel- who was a generous campaign donor. The reason for his ask now, and it is the only reason I can comprehend given my experience working with the homeless and following this administration’s effort towards homelessness versus others back to ‘92 (my arrival), is to cover his backside for the sinister contract changes. As the Hickel bill is overdue. As a self avowed Consevative, Christian mayor.

          Paul I think we can agree that Bronson’s overall work on Homelessness has considerably increased tensions, ignored long standing effective hard work of community members who have actually had service contact with homeless on VERY limited budgets, increased overall costs, interupted services and put people into the woods. Neither very Conservative nor Christian at all.

          I really do think you have an in with VA homelessness services-maybe ask for training information they would give their folks regarding homelessness concerns and intervention strategies.

  20. Once we get the program recipients figured out, how should the money be spent? Just feeding and housing a person for a day does nothing for the long term. What type of training or education would be most beneficial for the long term? In other words, even if we paid for an Ivy League education for a homeless person, what are the chances that that person will use their education to further themselves and NOT fall back into homelessness?

  21. Things which seem worth asking:
    1 What assures the new facilities won’t be trashed like the Sullivan?
    2. What assures drug dealing and child trafficking don’t happen on the premises?
    3. What assures ballot harvesting is not conducted on the premises and the physical address does not appear in voter-registration records?
    4. What will incentivize villages to pay for upkeep of their outcasts?
    5. What prevents operating costs from spiraling out of control when all of Alaska realizes they can dump their outcasts in Anchorage, or when grant money dries up?
    6. What assures the facility won’t evolve into a sanctuary for illegal aliens?
    7. What assures bum camps will be eliminated on public property?
    8. What assures stricter anti-squatting and anti-trespassing laws will be enacted and enforced as incentives to use the facilities instead of squatting on private property?

    • Well, hiring actual people who know how to run a homeless center would have fixed 1.

      But really- most of this is covered by law already. Folks are expected to respect the law.

      As to additional stricter ordinances, may I suggest you speak with your Assembly member to encourage that campaign if you want stricter laws.

  22. ❄️Deep in my homeland, of great ice and snow…?
    There’s where… ???☃️⛸️???????????????⚰️ etc.

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