Five years of failure on homeless solutions - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Five years of failure on homeless solutions



Our homeless problem has exploded in the last five years. 

  • 177  camps noticed in 2016
  • 414  camps noticed in 2017
  • 444  camps noticed in 2018
  • 1,111 camps noticed in 2019
  • 1,058 camps noticed in 2020 

In 2018, The Anchorage Assembly Committee on Homelessness and the Mayor planned $2 million in municipal dollars for cleaning up the homeless Camps in 2020.  

Jump forward to 2020 and this same mayor and Anchorage Assembly plot to use CARES Act Funds, funds they termed “a gift from heaven,” and intend to throw approximately $94.5 million at this issue.

$54.5 million of that is taxpayer money, made up of:

  • $12.5 million of Sustainability (opening doors and sustaining it with alcohol tax every year),
  • $15 million of the ML&P sale to Chugach Electric
  • $7 million CARES Act Funds
  • $20 million of upgrades/remodeling

Then there’s another $43 million coming from nonprofits such as Rasmuson Foundation, which comes to a grand total of $94.5 million.

With the current number of homeless in the Municipality of Anchorage, this is comparable to giving around $100,000 to each homeless person. This is a budgetary increase by a factor of 50. 

Why such a dramatic increase for a problem they could have solved with $2 million? 

The purpose of CARES Act is for the benefit of all citizens and small businesses affected by COVID-19, yet this plan benefits less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the population. 

Five years ago, when Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was elected, Anchorage was a completely different city. The mayor and his Assembly have spent the last five years “working” on this problem; their proposed solutions/policies have done nothing but increase crime, homeless numbers, and taxpayer costs.

In the current fiscal environment, the taxpayers cannot afford these expenditures.

The Assembly plans on spending CARES Act funds towards homeless initiatives; rather than its intended purpose to give relief to laid off workers and small businesses affected by COVID-19.

The Anchorage Assembly is not acting as a good steward of the funds allocated. This is your money, and the Anchorage Assembly plans on misappropriating it.

We had a homeless crisis prior to COVID-19. The pandemic provided the homeless with better shelters, better food, laundry services and free rein to walk the community and commit crime. Yet nothing has been fixed; your hard-earned dollars continue going toward a repeat of failed municipal policies. 

This is the same Assembly Committee on Homelessness who proposed this Resolution in 2018:

“Whereas, the current Administration has made strides in planning for and developing scattered site placements throughout the Anchorage Bowl for housing vulnerable persons and providing other core services, a trend that must be continued; now, therefore, the Anchorage Assembly resolves and declares it a public policy of the Municipality to, when it has the opportunity to do so, locate or recommend sites dispersed throughout all areas of the Anchorage Bowl….” Submitted by: Chair Felix Rivera, Assemblywoman LaFrance. 

I have listened to the public, and heard from all walks of life. What’s our plan?  It’s time to enforce our laws and hold people accountable.  We need to decide as a community how to best to address the homeless issue.  

After listening to testimony, and asking questions, I have a grasp on what the public desires: Communication, representation, transparency, and engagement in their ideas. 

Jamie Allard is the Anchorage Assembly member representing Chugiak-Eagle River.

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Written by

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.

Latest comments

  • If the State had half a brain, they’d file suit against BIA to recover costs that illegal tribal banishment has placed on the hub communities.

    • BIA has nothing to do with it.

    • Willy,

      Please explain illegal tribal banishment from HUB communities and use details. Are indigenous alcoholics being banned from their communities and sent to Anchorage because their families don’t want them? Can you prove it? Is it the taxpayers responsibility? Or in the cases of adolescent deaths, does the responsibility fall upon family members? If you have proof of Native blood does it fall on their corporation?

  • Well stated, Jaime Allard! You are the child who says loudly for all to hear, “But the emperor isn’t wearing ANY clothes”, (The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Anderson,

    Now it remains to be seen if the public keeps their heads buried in the sand and appear to be fools by letting the criminally inept mayor of Anchorage and assembly continue with their folly.

  • Appears to me that quirky berky had a plan. Makes me think he knew something about this before it happened.

    • Yes, you’re right, the municipality DID have a plan for how to provide services for our homeless neighbors, and this project is in line with that plan!

    • Yes, the municipality does indeed have a comprehensive plan in place for addressing homelessness in Anchorage, and this proposal is in line with that plan!

      • Homeless and neighbors … isn’t that a contradiction?

        A neighbor has an interest in the area in which he lives. A homeless person is nomadic, with no real attachment to the neighborhood or its wellbeing.

        Taking it further, the homeless we’re dealing with aren’t the suddenly unemployed and evicted. Regardless the reason, these are the willfully homeless, willfully unemployed, and willfully lawless. Whether they desire these conditions because of mental illness, drug or alcohol addictions, or just plain refusal to stand up on their own, no amount of comfort or enablement is going to help their situation.

        They need prison time or an institution, not a hotel room and food handouts.

        • Dukdodgers,

          Prisons, institutions, hotels and food all cost money. Why should we not ask their families to step up to the plate. If we look compare immigration and the people stuck at the borders, the government that did not want to pay for them should be held accountable. In Alaska’s case, the families that pretended they did not exist have a moral, ethical reponsibility to their kin.

  • Well stated, Allard.

  • Please consider a study of the vagrants’ original homes in Alaska. Are some villages sending more homeless to Anchorage than others? Assist those villages with schools of higher learning.

    Next, work to rescind the Molly Hooch law which states that high schools must be available in the villages. Spend the CARES money on boarding schools for Alaska Native students of high school age. I knew many of them when Chemawa was closed. Sheldon Jackson is still open. The kids were devastated when they could not go to a new environment for schooling.

    There are some brilliant homeless people who absolutely fell through the cracks. They had no h.s. at all.

    Please consider a study of the cause of Alaska homeless. Education would help.

    This is a state issue, but when the municipality of Anchorage becomes financially strapped while housing the homeless, it becomes an Anchorage issue.

    • This comment is horrific and racist. No Alaska Native children were “devastated” about not being sent to boarding schools. To quote this website from the state of Alaska, “[t]he historic legacy of boarding schools for Alaska Natives… is that of trauma and abuse.”

      • Don’t be a tool, Tara. Nothing said was racist. He proffered one opinion or side, and you proffered another. And then there is likely a middle ground where some were grateful for a new environment and some were not. I swear, one of the first words out of too many illiterate libtards is “racist”.

        • Bob, you are dragging down the level of this conversation even further by indicating that you think I’m illiterate, and using a term that denigrates disabled folks. Regardless, I stand by my assessment of the original comment.

          • I’m sure he didn’t mean to denigrate mentally deficient people or illiterates by associating them with liberals.

      • And you Tara are incorrect. Look at the trauma and abuse that these kids are living with now in a population of undereducated adults who were schooled in those bush communities that struggle for resources. Go see… travel to those communities.

    • Sheldon Jackson closed completely in 2007. I’m pretty sure they closed the boarding high school and became strictly a junior college decades before that. Plenty of kids from the villages were boarding and attending high school in Anchorage and Fairbanks, which all but disappeared with the Hootch and Tobeluk cases and the construction of village schools.

  • This five year increase is direct evidence that the more you “invest” in solving the homeless problem with programs and accommodations, the more homeless you attract to your city. If Anchorage wants to keep increasing the size of the homeless community, keep throwing money away with more shelters, more programs, and less trying to solve the root cause. There is an adage that says “The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” We may never solve the homeless problem, but if we care about these people we must stop accommodating bad behavior and start dealing with the root causes: mental illness, drug abuse, and alcoholism.

    • Craig,

      Agreed, but I think the problem may be more complex. Does the Alaska Club on Tudor not have a buyer. Is it going bankrupt? Is there a threat of having another vacant building. If we feed this homeless tapeworm and subsidize it, the city is going to be stuck with some huge mortgages, utility bills, and maintenance for building that are commerical loans and may or may not have 30 year repayment plans. If an adult cannot take care of themselves, and they become a ward of the state, and they have not imancipated themselves from their family, then their families should be responsible. If the FAMILY did not want to DEAL with the issues stemming from an alcoholic family, or an education plan gone ary after 22 they do not have a right to dump their kin on the side of the road like a unwanted dog. The city needs to hold families accountable and draft legislation to that effect.

  • It is not a failure when it was the intention. The communist marxist plan of Alinsky was to overwhelm the state and economy with burden. From San Diego to Anchorage the Leftist blight has been allowed to fester like a seeping wound . The more squalor the faster the demons like Berkowitz dance.

    • 1058 Camp Berkies? Jeezus. That aren’t that many Army Posts or Marine Camps in the entire world. If each homeless camp gets a PO and zip code, mailout ballots ought to bring in a lot of Democrat votes. And we all thought Berkie was dumb?

  • Did I miss an actual solution besides talking about it more?

  • With no accountability, you have no way to help anyone. And as long as they can get food and shelter with no accountability, there will be no success dealing with the vagrancy issue in Anchorage. Until the laws on the books are enforced and people are held accountable, all you are doing is putting out more cheese, which begets more rats. It is an analogy, don’t lose your mind.

  • Well written column Jamie Allard! You make a reasonable argument. Why can’t we just enforce laws against trespassing on private property and in parks after hours, and those who give money to panhandlers.

  • I believe Tara will come to this realization. That…The native kids need training. My greatest hope is that the money coming to Alaska should be spent on Regional schools in Alaska which truly teach vocational skills. Every skill is vocational these days. Every time I speak to a homeless, I ask where they’re from. So far, none of them were my former students.

    I taught in two villages, and spent 33 years with the eager native kids and… they were good students. Can you imagine their disappointment when no school recognized their talents? Liberal arts schools failed.

    Tara, you’ve got incredible spunk. Go to work for the eager minds and think of a way to help the village kids.

    You can do it!

  • Send them back to their points of origin and let their elders deal with them. Not the property tax payers.

  • Jamie, if you’re worried about using federal China flu money for bum houses, call the Treasury’s Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline at 800-359-3898,
    or write to: Brian D. Miller, Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), United States Treasury, Office of Inspector General 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Room 4436,

    Washington, DC 20220 and request an opinion.
    If you get a big no-no, ask the U.S. Attorney whether RICO law can be applied to perpetrators.
    Our belief is this cozy racket has little to do with homeless solutions as we understand the term.
    Remember, the Anchorage Assembly, your colleagues, forced the easily corruptible mail-in vote system on voters to assure, we believe, no bond, tax, or incumbent gets left behind. It seems

    to work well in that respect, yes?
    How could this project be enshrined forever, safe from would-be Deplorable reformers?
    Simple… giving physical addresses to homeless folk might be all that’s needed to corrupt municipal elections –permanently– by “pre-stuffing” Anchorage’s mail-in ballot box with ballots which helpful folks help homeless folks fill out and mail.
    Of course “helping” vulnerable people whose hold on sobriety, mental stability, literacy may be tenuous at best would never, ever take the form of bribes, booze, drugs, intimidation, ballot harvesting, mail theft… little things with big potential to manipulate elections.
    Madam Assemblywoman you’re assured this boondoggle is not the ultimate homeless solution: giving bums physical addresses to “pre-stuff” Anchorage’s mail-in ballot box to assure no bond, tax, or incumbent gets left behind? You’re assured effective checks and balances exist to stop this enterprise before it gets started?
    We’re not.
    Madam Assemblywoman, what do you really care? Your district has an exit strategy, Eaglexit.
    We don’t.

    • Morrigan,

      The Sully is empty. There are no venues scheduled. No hockey games, just local big businesses and corporations paying their mortgage, maintenance, employees and the utilities. Is it really worth buying into the conspiracy theory that the MOA are out to get the taxpayers? Look and think about Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and many more cities across the U.S. and see what their cities look like all boarded up. This is not about ballots, this is a deeper issue about larger buildings not being occupied, vandalized, and becoming a liability to the city. If the state complains to the Federal Government, another state will obtain our funds and we’ll be stuck in no mans land like some podunk town with no means of subsidizing anything.

      • If one’s outlook is all about Getting Money and the sacred mission of Getting More Money and dismissing concerns about the integrity of a voting system seemingly designed to do that and only that…
        If it’s all about not complaining to the Federal Government lest another state obtain our funds and we’ll be stuck in no man’s land…
        our poor ole Alaska is in way more trouble than originally imagined.
        And that ideology assures it stays that way, yes?

  • The numbers are the typical results of a Communist “5 year” plan. Welcome to the Socialist City State of San FranAnchorage.

  • Seems pretty simple if you think about it. A lot of societies problems stem from mentally challenged people who have no source of psychiatric care.
    If you think it’s OK to stand on a street corner and beg for money you need help.
    If you think it’s OK to live on the streets and drink your life away you need help.
    If you think it’s OK to abuse methamphetamine and heroin you need help.
    If you think it’s OK to be a government dependent when you are healthy and able you need help.
    If you think it’s OK to commit petty crimes just so you can get 3 hot meals and a cot you need help.
    Once we rid our prison system of illegals and criminals with mental issues we could turn many of our prisons into hospitals and get these people the help they need.
    The liberals just want to throw money at these problems and turn their backs on people that really need help. They like to be thought of as having compassion for these people when actually they have none. They just enable bad habits and life choices.

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