The midtown Anchorage neighbors fought it for years. The Jewish preschool nearby protested against having street people so close to the children.
But the Golden Lion Hotel on 36th Ave. was purchased anyway by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz for use as a drug treatment center.
Mayor Dave Bronson promised to close if elected, but instead it became a low-rent housing solution with 84 rooms after the Bronson Administration capitulated to the liberal majority on the Assembly last summer.
Now, it’s the latest 24-hour homeless shelter that neighbors always feared it would become.
Mayor Dave Bronson declared an emergency due to the cold snap, with temperatures below zero. On Wednesday, he opened up the Golden Lion Hotel for anyone who needs shelter from what has been a tough winter, even by Anchorage standards, with a record amount of snowfall, collapsing roofs, and now plunging temperatures. Although Anchorage has 40% of the state population, it is a magnet for down-and-out Alaskans and has over 60% of the state’s homeless.
Bronson has also expanded the city’s contract with the Aviator Hotel on Fourth Ave., for overnight warming — 8 pm to 8 am. Earlier, his office had indicated that the Aviator would be a 24-hour warming shelter, but now those using it will need to find shelter during the daytime. While the nearby Anchorage Museum had last month guaranteed free admission to all Alaska Natives, it has since paused that policy. Alaska Natives make up 43% of the Anchorage homeless population. The Fifth Avenue Mall may end up becoming that daytime warming place, if others fill up.
In addition to the two hotels, the mayor already established a cold-weather shelter facility at the old Solid Waste Services facility at 1111 E. 56th Ave., also open 24 hours a day.
When he became mayor, Bronson attempted to build a navigation center that would process each person who checked in and get them to the help they need, whether it is drug addiction treatment, job referrals, or housing vouchers. But the Assembly blocked that proposal in a long and drawn-out fight with Bronson, hoping to make him unsuccessful at his signature project. They succeeded.
Then Bronson said the city would buy people one-way tickets back to their hometowns, to places where their families could help figure out solutions for them. But the Assembly also blocked that.
Last year, Bronson reclaimed the Sullivan Arena, which had become a hotbed of drugs and violence, after former Mayor Berkowitz had seized the arena for mass sheltering during the Covid pandemic. In the near future, the Sullivan Arena will return to be an event venue. The cost of repairs to the facility after the street people had their way with it has not been fully quantified by the city, but for now it’s no longer available for nighttime shelter.