THE ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
City officials are asking the Alaska National Guard be pressed into service to help clean up the city’s homeless camps, along with their attendant piles of trash and human waste, as the snow melts and we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The request is a terrible idea on almost too many levels to comprehend, appearing to be little more than the city taking advantage of available federal CARES Act funding to deal with an expensive, chronic problem.
The notion of uniformed National Guard troops razing the camps, seizing private property – destroying this, carting off that – is mind-boggling. What happens when one or more of our recalcitrant urban sportsman decides to take them on? Imagine the pictures. Imagine the headlines: “Jackboot thugs beat homeless, mentally ill man.’
Calling out our the National Guard would, of course, be a quick, easy fix on somebody else’s dime for a social problem that has plagued Anchorage over recent years, but you have to ask: At what point did our service members become our garbage collectors and trash pickers? Do we really want uniformed troops carrying out such tasks? Their training, of course, is to break things and kill people.
Logistical support, distributing food, transporting essentials and necessities, building temporary communities. Those are all things right up the National Guard’s alley in a peacetime disaster setting, but clearing homeless camps? Hardly.
We would hope Gov. Mike Dunleavy would summarily reject the request. Using the Guard in such a manner would solve a city problem – and, yes, save it some money – but it is not in anybody’s best interest.