The Golden Lion, purchased by the Municipality of Anchorage under former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz for use as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, is now officially being used to house people who otherwise might be homeless. The first residents moved in this week.
Along with the GuestHouse Inn and Suites in Fairview, the Lakeshore Inn & Suites, the Barratt Inn, and Sockeye Inn in Spenard, and the Golden Lion in midtown is part of the constellation to house the increasing number of people who can’t find other suitable housing in Anchorage.
Karluk Manor was the first to pioneer the “housing first” concept for chronic inebriates. Opened in 2011 and run by RuralCAP, it became the blueprint for turning hotels into housing for the indigent. The organization also manages 325 East 3rd, Safe Harbor Muldoon, and Sitka Place at 1905 E. 4th Ave.
Twelve years later in 2023, there are over five hotels with more than 400 units of a similar nature in Anchorage for those who have run through their other options.
The rules at each hotel-style location are different. For former hotel Karluk Manor, the understanding is that people admitted there are ongoing chronic inebriates or street alcoholics. The residents are allowed to drink in their units.
At the Golden Lion, clients have nearly full control over their own modest hotel rooms, which come with a microwave oven, bed, bathroom, a couple of chairs, big-screen television, and desk.
In fact, the rental agreement states that the management company recognizes that “drug and alcohol use is part of the world in which we live and wishes to minimize the harmful effects of drug use on each individual and the community. Henning, Inc. does not condone or condemn drug or alcohol use; however, the use of these is strictly prohibited on the premises of the Golden Lion Hotel.”
Premises is loosely defined in the agreement, which goes on to acknowledge that residents must make their own choices about their substance abuse.
“We aim to create an environment where individuals can openly discuss substance use without fear of judgment and navigate their own personal path of choices. This includes discussing one’s choices regarding substance use and supporting one’s ability to make decisions regarding their own substance use goals (active use, recovery, abstinence, etc.). The staff of Henning is responsible for engaging residents in conversations about their use of drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications, addressing the effects of substances on the resident’s life and the community,” the contract states.
The agreement says people can’t be using drugs and alcohol in the lobby, hallways or western parking lot of this taxpayer-owned and funded building, but is silent about use in the rooms themselves, nor what kind of partying may go on in the alley behind the building, which is now listed on Google maps as the Municipality of Anchorage Homeless Shelter. The hotel alley backs up to a residential neighborhood, Geneva Woods.
In other words, the Golden Lion housing concept started out as a drug and alcohol rehab center under Mayor Berkowitz, but is now a homeless hotel where drugs and alcohol will be permitted, so long as it’s not observed by management.
If anything happens, the management company must give 24-hours notice before it can enter.
The rental agreement in full: