Column: Vote yes on homeless navigation center

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By MAYOR DAVE BRONSON, ASSEMBLYMAN FELIX RIVERA, FORMER ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WEDDLETON

This week, the Anchorage Assembly will consider plans to construct a homelessness navigation and prevention center on the Anchorage Police Department campus near Tudor and Elmore roads. After many months of collaborative work and constant refinement through public input, we believe that our bipartisan proposal is sound, humane, and represents the most significant opportunity we’ve had in decades to turn the tide on homelessness.

We urge a yes vote on our resolution funding construction of the navigation center.

The navigation center will serve as a point of entry to treatment programs, specialized shelters, and permanent supportive housing all across Anchorage. In the same way that emergency rooms triage and transfer patients to specialized care, the navigation center will be a welcoming facility, staffed by competent navigators whose job is to connect clients to income, benefits, healthcare, and housing.

A key element of any navigation center is a “housing first,” low-barrier approach that prioritizes housing and deprioritizes admission requirements. This means accepting family configurations that traditionally struggle to gain access to shelters – single adults, couples, elders with a caretaker – and working to quickly place them into permanent housing. Only when this most basic human need is met are clients able to meaningfully engage with wrap-around services and address the root cause of their homelessness.

Earlier this week, we had another opportunity to share our plan with the public, and by Thursday’s Assembly meeting the administration will have provided nearly 300 pages of documentation to policymakers and the public. While some cost escalation due to inflation is to be expected in today’s economy, the building is currently priced at $9 million. Preliminary estimates for operating costs are $5 million per year. To put this amount into perspective, current municipality-run shelter operations cost more than $6 million each month. Even with inflation, the navigation center will unequivocally be a cost saver.

The steel-membrane structure, complete with skylights and windows, will be a tremendous leap forward over the ill-suited Sullivan Arena. While the 200-bed sheltering capacity of the navigation center will be temporary, the facility will be permanent – providing homelessness prevention services and meeting other community needs for many years to come. For those worried about winter conditions, rest assured that Sprung structures are already in use on the North Slope, Siberia, and even the Andes Mountains.

None of this would’ve been possible without your feedback. The facility will be designed for 200 clients, and emergency capacity will only be activated in the event of a true crisis. We’ve brought in the Anchorage Fire Department to develop fire mitigation plans, and we will continue to work with our safety partners to ensure pedestrian safety.

While we recognize that the location will always be a point of discussion, it’s worth remembering that the current site was selected after a review of over 70 locations around town. In truth, every one of us lives near a homeless shelter. The shelters are on our trails, in our parks, and behind our businesses. It’s up to us to fix this, and we believe the selected location is the best site by a long shot.

As we move forward, it’s important to maintain perspective. The navigation center is just one part of a comprehensive transition plan from mass sheltering to sustainable operations. On Monday, we celebrated the opening of the Sockeye Inn which will soon provide 61 private rooms for the medically vulnerable. Last Thursday, the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness processed over 100 applications for permanent housing from clients at the Sullivan Arena, and we’re very close to securing an additional 120 rooms at the GuestHouse Inn for workforce and supportive housing.

Private entities are also hard at work bringing additional services online. Partnering with the municipality, the Salvation Army is on the verge of reopening its 68-bed substance misuse treatment facility on 48th Avenue. On Third Avenue, the Rasmuson Foundation, Weidner Apartment Homes, Bean’s Café, and Catholic Social Services are working together to open a navigation center as early as next year. These private service providers will continue to bear the lion’s share of homelessness efforts in Anchorage, and we’re tremendously grateful for their efforts.

There’s no denying that the challenge that lies ahead is enormous, but all of us believe that we’ve never been better positioned to make a real difference. Our coalition represents every political stripe and point of view – whether you’re after safer trails, a more vibrant economy, or you share our belief that we have a moral obligation to protect the vulnerable and marginalized, we welcome you to our cause.

We call on the full Assembly to join us with a yes vote on navigation center funding.

Dave Bronson is the mayor of Anchorage. Felix Rivera represents Midtown on the Anchorage Assembly and is the chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness. John Weddleton represented South Anchorage on the Anchorage Assembly.

27 COMMENTS

  1. The liberals will not vote yes on it, since it was the mayor’s idea. Wasn’t that Forrest’s big thing for his campaign? They want something done, but not in their area of town.

  2. The more money Anchorage throws at the “homeless”, the more homeless they’ll have.

    Stop funding the lifestyle, see how fast they are on their way to Seattle

  3. The navigation center should be at the airport, and costs limited to a one-way fare to another state.

  4. If Felix and John are for it, Im 100% against it. Automatically. Isn’t that how the freaks and ferries of the assembly have handled business for the last two years? It’s time for conservatives to play by the new rules. Anything they support or propose gets a “NO” from me, off the top. Let the bums continue to destroy the Sullivan Arena, the intersections the parks and the Loussac. Maybe in a few years Anchorage residents will be disgusted enough that they will actually vote to make sure we don’t end up in this democrat waste land again. No more money, no more housing, no more free cell phones no more free medicine no more free meals. No more. Let the Dems own this.

  5. What if the homeless refuse? Most of them don’t want accountability. My brother was homeless for 2 months, living in his car at a rest stop in Kentucky, while drunk, before he died last week. He wasn’t there because nobody would care for or house him. He had exited a sober home after staying there a couple days. My sister offered him a place to stay when he got out. He said he needed to work it out on his own. That meant that he wanted to be able to do whatever without her watching or having a say. My mother told me that she would rather be homeless than live under my roof because I believe in the Bible. What she means is she feels that she would have to abide by someone else’s rules – the same kind of rules that she expected me to live by when I was a teenager. People who think that way just hate good authority that holds people to responsible standards. Homeless people run away from their parents as teenagers, run away from marriages and children, run away from jobs, run away from responsibilities. They blame everyone but themselves for everything bad that happens to them. They take responsibility for nothing. How will this shelter help most of the homeless, the ones who refuse to change? The solution is in the Bible. What does the Bible say to do with the drunken sluggard who won’t repent? Who shakes his fist and those who want to help them? Everyone should be offered forgiveness and grace, but only if they’re willing to do something with it. To whom much is given, much is required. By the way, my brother and my mother weren’t/aren’t uneducated without skills. My brother was a registered nurse. He was a genius and had a degree. He was charming and had phenomenal potential. My mother isn’t incapable of working, but she doesn’t, because she’s never had to for very long. She told me when I turned 18 to vote democrat or else people like us would never eat. I’m so grateful I didn’t believe that or I would be where she is. No, their root problem was being raised in a broken family without belief in the Bible. At 18, I accepted Christ as my Savior, and I was put on a path that has led me very far from the path my other family members have gone down. I’m so grateful that I believed the truth and not the lies, but the best way to turn things around is to put the Bible back in churches, back in schools, back in government, and back in the healing community. Stop medicating with alcohol, cannabis, opioids, etc…! It’s driving people crazy! They’re hearing voices, and it’s because they’re always under the influence of everything but the Holy Spirit!

    • Amazing testimony Lindsey. And it’s true, Satan’s lies have an open door to your soul when a person chooses drunkenness. Rebellion and witchcraft and self-idolatry step in. Sorry to hear about your brother and your mom. It will take constant attention and surrender to walk in forgiveness and joy towards people who turn away from the truth like that – Satan will come after you with the consolation prizes of bitterness and cynicism. Be blessed, remember that you’re royalty through Jesus, and keep winning souls with the lamb’s blood and the words of your testimony. There are deeper defilements to people who are living drunk and homeless -child sexual abuse, generational curses, and demonic trades of their innocence. We have to keep praying with and for these folks and helping them break all these satanic bondages. It’s possible and it’s biblical. Greater is He who lives in you than he who is in the world!

    • I agree that the faith in God and values are the key, but I don’t think it is the responsibility of the government to deliver all of that to people. But the government shouldn’t be stepping in the way either. And the government should allow charity to deal with the problem as much as possible with people that do it out of the goodness of their heart, not for a paycheck, and can offer a human touch that the government can’t provide and shouldn’t provide.

      I also have a family with a history of alcoholism on both sides. I get so tired of hearing from liberals that the issue is that there isn’t enough jobs or minimum wage is too low or there isn’t enough affordable housing. I’ll agree that housing costs going through the roof doesn’t help, but that isn’t the root cause. I won’t go over what you just said because you illustrate it better than I can. It’s true they don’t want accountability anymore and they don’t want to answer to any rules. That’s absolutely correct. Nearly anyone has a family member willing to take in a relative that is starving and struggling to even survive. But anybody that has been around someone with devastating mental illness like addiction, knows that people won’t change until they hit a rock bottom and realize two things: they are on the brink of losing what they value the most and things could be better if they wake up and realize they are their worst enemy and need to surrender and find help. Nobody knows the level of humility that requires unless they have been through it or witnessed it in somebody very close to the heart. It’s an achievement that is far greater and far more difficult than anything we can easily see. Can you imagine having to accept that you have been totally wrong about most everything you have telling yourself for the past decade?

      Anyway, this sorting facility won’t do anything if it doesn’t allow people to suffer consequences and allows people to get even more comfortable without changing. I believe it should be illegal to sleep on the streets and people should have three options: one night in jail, get dropped off at a home of choice with a one-time warning, or this sorting facility that does not allow drugs or alcohol. The one-time warning can expire after 30 days, but if they get caught intoxicated on the streets again, they only have two options. It’s not illegal to be poor, but it is illegal to sleep on the streets when there are facilities to go to. It should be humiliating to found sleeping on the streets. Part of what these people find on the streets is a community of people that also want to be in a drunken stooper all day and provide support and friendship for the wrong reasons. It’s not humane or compassionate to enable that lifestyle and community that is a toxic downward spiral. Process them, offer them treatment, and an avenue for cheaper (not free) housing but it should be expected that they will end up on the streets again and again and when they are, it shouldn’t be a pleasant experience for them because they broke the law and they need to be expected to stand up on their own feet and find some human dignity.

  6. I have supported this concept since it was developed and have continued to update the book on Homelessness from the AKRoundtable.
    at the time, this concept had 100% support by all ‘providers’ when it was introduced. It is time we moved in this direction, both in its location and contruction.

  7. Don’t fuss, since it was the Mayor’s proposal, the assembly will shoot it down! Regardless of whether it has merit. Why even bother to think otherwise. It is a clear pattern. That’s science.

  8. estimates for operating costs are $5 million per year. To put this amount into perspective, current municipality-run shelter operations cost more than $6 million each month. Even with inflation, the navigation center will unequivocally be a cost saver.

    how will this be a ”cost saver” ??? if this passes will the $6mil per month theyre already spending stop?? will it be reduced? if theyre already spend$6 mil per month theyre just gonna throw another 9mil at the problem and like magic the problem will just start receding?? wtf were does this stop? $6 mil a month ffs. these politicians shouldn’t be in charge of watching paint dry. what do they do with $6 mil each month? seems like they should take part of that 9 million they want to spend and pay for some forensic accounting
    $6 mil each month and theyre still bums everywhere? where in the hell is all this money going??

  9. Hows this working out in places like San Fran?

    Spoiler alert: It isn’t.

    See Prager U for a great video on it, and how it doesn’t work, and the data to back it up.

    Also, we already have a “Navigation Center” for vagrants; it’s called JAIL. If the fines and penalties got substantially stiffer with repeated offenses, and they were actually enforced? The problem would go away. Any judge could at any time offer leniency for mentally ill folks and offer treatment as an option for addicts, but if you don’t enforce vagrancy laws you get more vagrants. The laws of physics apply, to every community, even those governing Anchorage.

    If we want to provide affordable housing for people in tough financial straights, that’s one thing. But no drugs and no drinking. If we accommodate that, we will have MORE not less, of that. Everywhere you see “Help Wanted” ads. So there are jobs for those who want to work. There are subsidies and programs for people who cannot physically work, that will fund their housing. This state has the best funded “non profits” in the country. Between them, churches, friends and family, etc? All of the people who are actually in a tough way and not an addict, criminal, or mental patient should be taken care of. The latter groups have facilities (funded by the public) already available to them. A judge can help them “navigate” at sentencing. This is another boon doggle for neo cons wanting to feel like they’ve done something, leftists wanting to virtue signal, and the contractors and big government types wanting more largess. Providing a safe place for people to get high and check out of life and any and all personal responsibility is going to create more of those people, not less.

  10. Yep, housing first has worked so well for SF and other havens for the homeless, i.e. drug addicts……Anchorage be like…..”Sign me up”. Here’s a pro tip for Mayor Lightweight Bronson……..what you tolerate you get more of.

    • You say Housing First works..What a sorry sight..just go look at the Karluk House on Karluk and 6th-across from the, Luck Wishbone. No rules, no improvements, they just stayed there running all over the local area, bars, drug etc until they died.. I had a friend who worked there and she had her say about it. Yes people came and checked on them, but basically didn’t help them out of their predictament/improved them. Yes, we CAN HELP the ones affected(lost housing) by the covid and get them housed and back to work. We CAN HELP with mental/medical treatments and only those who WANT to go thru alcohol/drug treament.. but the ones who are out on the streets and bumming around really don’t want housing, they want their”Freedon?” no responsibility to no one or anybody..They are the ones really causing the blight andcrime andf the problems..We need to through those into jail/slammer and keep them off the streets..

  11. Two thoughts:

    1. The Homeless Industrial Complex marches on.

    2. Location is very close to Bicentennial Park and the North Fork of Campbell Creek. That part of the creek is closed to salmon fishing, but people do chase rainbows from time to time. There are bears in Bicentennial park that feed on the salmon that make it up the creek. Interacting with them might tend to cull both herds. Think of it as evolution in action.

    Might be worth a shot. Cheers –

  12. Street drunks belong in jail , breaking rocks. The mentally ill should be under competent supervision and treatment. That worked very well prior to about the early 1980s , when the State mental hospitals were de funded and closed, then all at once to the astonishment of everyone, the entire nation had a “ homeless problem”. So, what we are really suffering is a “ lack of responsibility problem “.

  13. Contrary to megs new no panhandeling signs around midtown, the only Change our unfortunate brothers and sisters will find is the Change that is found in Christ Jesus. Don’t follow meg’s signs giving your money to any charities. Support only your faith based charities taking not a penny from government that makes its service all about jesus, They are showing the best returns for private donations recieved.

  14. My grandfather would remind me, “To get ‘there’ you need some notion of ‘where’ there is.” It seems that some people don’t have a “there” in mind nor do they care. If they do, willy-nilly and helter-skelter has them side-tracked.

    If you really want to warehouse the woebegone, just about any plan will do–the problem being keeping them shelved and out of sight!

    This “navigation plan” has a nice, foghorn “ring” to it, but it is a dead-ender: the issue isn’t a political problem that can be solved by a committee of a few do-gooders! Wake up! This “plan” is destined to end up on the rocks. The “there” that the “community engineers” have in mind is just more hot air–there ain’t no “there” there! Where are the church leaders, the soul-seekers? Where are the CEOs, the CFOs, the presidents, and the chairmen of the boards of directors of the ANCSA corporations and their many subsidiaries? Come on! In a society of the me-me-me no one really gives a damn: essentially this “navigation plan” is an empty notion!

    VOTE NO! Thought has to be put into the “there” aspect of the matter! And right now there ain’t no “there” there.

  15. We have some very large homeless shelters in Juneau with a giant one coming online shortly. So far we’ve had one murder, lots of drug dealing, and thefts from nearby merchants. Add to this people sleeping in front of liquor stores. For smaller cities like Anchorage or Juneau, the initial cost is like buying a boat. After purchase, your expenses and troubles have just begun.

  16. There is a very small segment of the “homeless” population that are truly mentally ill; leaving them on the street is abuse, and we should fund a state hospital to cope with those very few. The rest of the “homeless” are bums, pure and simple.

    A large number of the “homeless” (drunks) are folks who were sent here from the villages for a court date due to their bad behavior and then never allowed to return to the village. How about the Native Medical Center stand up and take care of their own? Heaven knows taxpayers already fund all of that.

    For the truly homeless, for whatever reason other than mental health or booze or drugs, there are plenty of programs available and those folks tend to get the help they need already.

    But for the “homeless” corporate and non-profit community, there is money to be made by keeping the “homeless” away from a solution.

  17. Mayor B., this looks like a good concept.
    .
    Seems reasonable to assume the election outcome is a foregone conclusion since the radical Left approves and voters are burdened with such an easily corruptible mail-in ballot scheme.
    .
    But may we ask:
    .
    What protects taxpayers from the concept morphing into another unaffordable financial abyss, like Anchorage School District, for example?
    .
    What sort of verifiable accountability will be included so the public can track the cost of care per client?
    .
    What process(es) will protect vulnerable customers such as women and children from predatory male transients?
    .
    What will prevent on-site drug trafficking, what assures repeat offenders will be turned away?
    .
    How will village authorities who dump their outcasts in Anchorage be held liable for the cost of their care?

  18. The financial aspect of this project has been touched-on by others above but I think this really bears repeating: “While some cost escalation due to inflation is to be expected in today’s economy, the building is currently priced at $9 million.” Based on my experience with building projects in Alaska, construction costs will surely overrun the estimated $9 million, probably by as much as 20% if not more.

    “Preliminary estimates for operating costs are $5 million per year. To put this amount into perspective, current municipality-run shelter operations cost more than $6 million each month. Even with inflation, the navigation center will unequivocally be a cost saver.” The two sentences quoted here should be a wake-up call for those living in Anchorage. The Muni currently spends $72 million each year on bums with no improvements to show for it. Now the city government is asking you to approve yet another “bum shelter”, which will surely cost more than the estimated construction and operational costs. Unless the current “bum shelters” or “bum programs” are slated to be decommissioned (you know they won’t be), the costs for the new “bum shelter” will just be piled on top of the $72 million the city spends currently. Yet, the city government wants you to believe the new bum facilitation center will be a cost saver.

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