Humanitarian crisis? Deplorable?
The Anchorage Assembly “Nine,” their political surrogates on the Left, and the Anchorage Daily News are pushing a narrative to the public that homeless people who are living at a fully equipped, clean campground are in a “humanitarian crisis.”
Perhaps the news reporters have not visited other encampments that have been around Anchorage in the recent past, such as the one that developed on the ridge east of town a couple of years ago.
Or perhaps they don’t have the memory of what Anchorage was like in 2020, with people having sex on the sidewalk in Anchorage next to others who were passed out — or worse.
The truth of Centennial Campground is far from what has been characterized by critics as “deplorable conditions.” Unlike living in the woods or on the street corners around Anchorage and using streams for toilets and bathing, the campers have all the amenities of any top-line campground. They have running water, toilets, 24-hour security, free wi-fi, constant maintenance by city staff who keep the place picked up.
A tour around the campground tells a different story than the one shown by the media. Take a look:
In fact, it’s not much different in its functionality than the 2020 “Camp Berkowitz,” which set up on the Delaney Park Strip. That was an organized project of leftist groups like the “Poor People’s Campaign.” The mayor took no action because the project supported his political objectives; it was a tactic to embarrass the governor and stimulate public interest in the now-failed recall attempt against Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Homelessness is, after all, a political battering ram for the Left.
Many of the people living at the Centennial Campground today are in far better circumstances than they were living in the woods three weeks ago. Those touring through the campground remark on how calm everything is.
While not ideal for some, for others living outdoors is what they want to do for now, and a free camping spot, with food being delivered daily by nonprofits, is an improvement in their situation. Several of the campers have nice cars and most are keeping their campsites tidy.
The Mayor’s Office doesn’t see the campground as a permanent solution, but during the dry weather earlier this year, when fires were a real hazard in the forests around Anchorage, moving people from random campsites in the woods to a controlled situation was a safety priority. A fire south of Dowling Road this summer posed a real threat to homes. Mayor Dave Bronson is working to construct a navigation center that will connect homeless people with the services they need, specific to their individual situations. The Leftist majority on the Assembly has opposed the navigation center and blocked its construction for over a year. They cannot give the mayor a win on homelessness; in fact, their goal seems to be to increase the pain and suffering of the homeless, exacerbate the problem, and then use it to remove the mayor from office under the new ordinance that gives the Assembly the power to do so.
Some homeless have been moved out of the campground and into temporary shelter at city-owned, nonprofit owned, or contracted facilities, such as the Aviator Hotel. They are either families with children or people who are medically fragile.
The Centennial Campground is a far cry from the random takeovers of other public places that occurred in the Berkowitz years, such as the big tent city that popped up at Third Ave. and Ingra St.
There are always situations that arise with chronically homeless. There is drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and occasional death from overdose or untreated medical conditions. But the campground is clean and for the most part it is a safe place, with security cameras and security guards. At least for now.