The year-long debate between the Bronson Administration and the Anchorage Assembly over mitigating homelessness in Anchorage took another turn on Friday when the hired mediators quit, saying that the two sides were just not working well together.
In a letter, retired Admiral Tom Barrett and Belinda Breaux, who were the mediators, said they’re done. The letter was vague and did not cast all the blame on one side or the other.
“We want to inform you we are concluding our work facilitating efforts by the Municipality and the Anchorage Assembly to improve the homeless situation in our community. We do not believe at this point we can add value implementing the client and community focused strategy the Assembly and Municipality have agreed to,” the two wrote.
“Homelessness is a complex, multifaceted issue impacting some of the most vulnerable members of our community and the quality of life of our community itself. Successfully addressing it takes proactive engaged, transparent collaboration among multiple government, philanthropic, service, business and religious organizations willing to rise above differences and partner with each other in positive, creative ways to achieve common goals, Barrett and Breaux wrote. The Mayor’s Office and the Assembly had brought in community partners such as Weidner Apartments and the Rasmuson Foundation to solve the complexities of homelessness in Anchorage.
At the end of the month, the Sullivan Arena is closing as a temporary shelter, after having been used as such for two-and-a-half years.
“Much progress has been made over the past year in Anchorage because of extraordinary work by many dedicated individuals and organizations. The Anchorage community can be proud of this progress, and we are proud of helping advance that work. We thank the Assembly and Mayor Bronson for the opportunity,” the mediators wrote.
“However, the transparency, candor and ‘we are all in this together’ attitude that enabled that earlier progress has in our opinion broken down in recent months. The decision framework approach we apply to support issue resolution depends on willingness to engage on tough issues with transparency, candor, accurate data, and credible information. We are no longer in such an environment and are thus unable to add value supporting decision-making needed to successfully exit mass care at Sullivan arena and implement agreed to planks of the client and community centered homeless strategy. We encourage the Administration to continue working together with the Assembly and community partners over coming weeks as Sullivan Arena is closed, operating plans for a navigation center are developed, and for the long term given that gaps remain in supportive low-cost housing availability in Anchorage,” they wrote.
A major component of the homelessness plan was the mayor’s hope for a navigation center, where people who are down on their luck could begin a journey back to productivity and a stable life. That has been met with a lot of resistance from the Assembly, as has his desire to work more closely with the faith-based nonprofits who are already providing services to homeless and vagrants in Anchorage.