While some homeless people have sought shelter at the Sullivan and Boeke arenas in Anchorage, others are not interested in the dry cots being provided by the Mayor Berkowitz Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tent city at 3rd Avenue and Ingra Street has once again become a hotbed of drug-dealing and open defecation. So much so, that city officials are asking the Dunleavy Administration to send in the National Guard to clean up the mess.
Around Anchorage, from downtown to midtown, the images are heartbreaking, as derelicts and drug dealers shuffle like zombies through streets abandoned by law-abiding citizens.
On Monday afternoon, an inebriated man was openly defecating at the corner of Northern Lights and Denali. Wednesday, another incapacitated man was witnessed defecating on the sidewalk on 3rd Avenue. Today, a crazed individual ran nearly naked through the streets as firefighters tried to corral him; he was as high on some substance.
Although Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has ordered homeless people to shelter at designated locations, some are unable or unwilling to follow the rules in staffed shelters, and others simply prefer life in the open.
In fact, dozens of homeless people have been kicked out of the city-run shelters for various infractions. They hang out around the tent city, where people come and go to buy drugs in broad daylight.
The municipality has cleaned up this location time and again, but the tents and tarps and cardboard structures once again stretch far down Ingra along the ridge where the old Alaska Native Hospital used to sit.
This is normally the time of year when the snow melts and the cleanup begins, and this year the city will have its hands full with COVID-19 stalking those who have underlying medical conditions or who live in tight quarters in these tents.
Rob Cupples and his family have owned property across the street for over 70 years. He has been trying to get the city to clean up the tent city. He formed a group a few years ago called the Third Street Radicals.
With most surrounding buildings now vacant due to the citywide COVID-19 orders, things are as bad or worse than he’s ever seen them. And the vagrants have become more aggressive. It feels like a losing battle.
“For the past 3 weeks we have experienced a steep spike in a variety of social and criminal issues within our small neighborhood. You would think that with the relocation of a significant majority of the homeless population to the Sullivan our neighborhood should be the quietest and calmest it has been in years, but the truth is quite the opposite. For the past three weeks the homeless camp along both sides of the fence at 3rd and Ingra has continued to grow,” Cupples wrote to his Third Street Radicals.
“With this growth has come a substantial increase in garbage on our streets, partying, loitering on our private properties, and an increase in mob mentality due to the lack of community presence under the hunker down order. The occupants of the camps have demonstrated aggression on multiple occasions to members of this community including aggressively chasing an ADN photographer from the area who reported to me personally being very fearful just last week.”
“Drugs are being actively sold from these tents on a daily basis, as easily observed from my front row seat at 3rd and Hyder. I have personally observed an increase in vehicular traffic to the area of buyers coming to score their drugs from this location. One buyer openly admitted to me why they were there. They park directly outside my windows and walk across to the tents,” Cupples wrote.
Groups of people are gathering on street corners and on private properties in an intimidating fashion, he wrote.
“This is particularly concerning as most of our properties are primarily vacant at the moment due to the hunker down order. We are currently at our most vulnerable. Neighbors have recently reported break ins, having their power cut to their house in the middle of the night, APD refusing to remove drug users from private property because there was no fence, etc.
The trash has overrun our streets,” Cupples wrote.
“It became so bad I personally requested of this administration they relocate a dumpster to the site of the tents at 3rd and ingra with the hopes the occupants of these tent would use it, assisting us in the trash battle. (which has appeared to be relatively successful, thus far).
“My wife and I have been trying to keep up on the litter around our business with nearly daily trash pickups, but it is a losing battle. On Monday she reported that she was unable to pick up trash directly outside our fence because she no longer felt safe. The crowds of drunk males within the immediate vicinity posed too significant a risk for her to leave the confines of our fences with her trash grabber. For the past 3 years I have not feared my wife going to our business by herself, however after Monday she will not be returning to our business without me being present until the situation improves.”
Cupples is asking for people to join the Third Street Radicals at 11:30 am on Friday on the corner of 4th and Ingra to publicize what he and others are calling a war zone. He’s asking they bring homemade signs and personal protective equipment, and observe the six-foot rule. Cupples said he’s not trying to pick on homeless people, but the neighborhood wants to reverse the criminal activity that has taken it over: