Squatters getting notice to leave urban encampments - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, November 27, 2020
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Squatters getting notice to leave urban encampments

BERKOWITZ MAY SET UP VAGRANT SERVICE HUB AT THIRD, INGRA

Squatter camps around Anchorage will get new signage today: “No Camping.”

In a unanimous vote of 11-0, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday ordering Mayor Ethan Berkowitz administration to immediately begin clearing out vagrant sites around Anchorage, particularly in two areas where serious squalor has set in at Third Avenue and Ingra Street and along Chester Creek between C Street and Ingra.

It’s something that Berkowitz has been reluctant to do. Although he ran on a “safe Anchorage” platform, he also maintains a core belief that Anchorage should be “a welcoming community,” as “Alaska’s largest village.” For years, he has had a homeless coordinator, but the expanding vagrant problem has become his signature achievement.

Assemblymember Chris Constant has had enough. He warned that unless action was taken to abate homelessness in and near his district, he would object to every single item on the Assembly agenda for as long as it would take to get action for something that he sees as a dire situation.

Constant said that the inaction on the part of the Berkowitz Administration is intolerable and that Berkowitz has been dragging his heels on the vagrant encampments for months.

“This inaction is just intolerable. I agree that we shouldn’t be mixing these people but I can almost hear the violins playing in the room,” he said, speaking from his home. “The fact is, our current actions for months have been to tolerate rampant criminality, defecation in the streets, trash piles everywhere, sick people piled on top of each other, marching from corner to corner to corner to corner across the downtown. They are not isolated or limited to a location.” Constant said.

The first step demanded by the Assembly is for the city to post the signs at the squatter encampments, and give the people staying in the tents and under tarps 10 days to clear out their possessions. The city will spend up to $180,000 cleaning up the camps, which will require hiring contractors.

Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar said in his talks with the Berkowitz Administration he was told the the camps haven’t been abated because the administration believed to disperse the vagrants might increase the spread of COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control recommends that encampments such as these remain undisturbed.

Rob Cupples, who owns property nearby at Third Avenue and Hyder Street, says that is a mistaken belief about the camps. He observes drug deals going on all day long, as people come and go from the sprawling squatter headquarters at Third and Ingra.

Cupples told Must Read Alaska, that the site has significant interaction with the general public because of the underground drug commerce taking place. The Administration’s rationale that the camps should not be abated because it is a contained community is unsupported by reality, Cupples said.

“Both the foot and vehicular traffic between the homed and unhomed to and from this location is non-stop.  Vehicles come from outside the neighborhood with individuals cycling in and out of the camp constantly. Camp occupants are moving all throughout the downtown and midtown corridors, interacting with the general public and returning to the camp.  On any given day 10 or more different vehicles, often with multiple occupants, drive to the location and enter the camps to purchase drugs that are being moved through the encampment by specific individuals,” Cupples said.

Cupples said he observed from his property as a woman from out of town who came by with a bag of hamburgers, and while she left her van running nearby, went into the encampment at Third and Ingra to hand out the hamburgers, only to return to find a man from the encampment had hopped in her van and taken off with it.

Cupples watched the whole incident unfold but wasn’t able to intervene because of the speed of the theft. The vehicle was found later, but the woman’s purse, phone and bike were stolen.

Chris Schutte, the municipality’s director of economic and community development, explained to the Assembly that by abating the camps, the people living there will be more likely to come into contact with people who have COVID-19.

Because they typically are living an unhealthy lifestyle and often have underlying health conditions, COVID-19 could be more deadly to them, he said, “if it does make its way into that population.”

Schutte said the Berkowitz Administration looked to “peer communities” to see what they are doing with their vagrant camps, and that they are all following the CDC guidelines to not abate the camps.

“And there’s a reason for that. For one, it’s a rule, a guidance from the federal government, most of us are operating under an emergency setting, and we will be relying on FEMA dollars to offset the cost that we are incurring. And I am one that believes if you are going to ask for money from the federal government you should probably not violate some of the rules and guidance of the federal government,” Shutte told the Assembly.

Schutte said that the peer cities he has looked at are providing masks, hand washing stations, and portable toilets for their vagrant camps, rather than clearing the camps. He said the Berkowitz Administration has considered doing that, but the Chester Creek encampment now poses a fire risk as Anchorage moves into wildfire season, and it has to be cleared.

As for the Third and Ingra encampment, Schutte said the Administration is developing an idea around satellite hubs to provide outreach services to the people living on the streets, and that the city may create an outreach hub at Third and Ingra with hand washing stations, masks, and toilets.

“One of the first sites that would be an excellent candidate for that is the Third and Ingra site, Schutte said.

“We have a population of individuals there that we don’t touch regularly, that we don’t communicate with regularly, and so it would provide an opportunity for the outreach hub and services and service providers who will use that to interface with them,” Schutte said.

Property owner Cupples, who is part of a group called “Third Avenue Radicals,” has another idea. He encouraged the Assembly to request an audit comparing the cost of fencing around the Third Avenue area and the cost of abatement.

“It is and has been the position of the community the administration has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the fence, despite the costs.  We first took this position back in December when we learned of their opposition to maintaining it and have repeatedly warned the Administration that the situation we are experiencing today would be the end result of their position, but they refused to take our concerns seriously or reconsider their position,” Cupples said.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Both they and the community would be safe if they were removed to Fire Island and left there.

    • 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

  • Vagrancy/squatting/trespassing, should start as a fine, then escalate to a misdemeanor, then a felony. Anywhere in the process, they should be able to avail themselves of counseling or substance abuse services. If none of those are taken advantage of, and if the vagrant ignores the citations they should be incarcerated. At that point if mental health is the driver they can be transferred to a mental health facility, but if not, they need to serve their time.

    These people are harming themselves and the community. They have the freedom, we all should have, to camp in designated camping and wilderness areas, but NOT downtown. They have no right whatsoever to do what they have done to Anchorage and other cities across America, and the people who have done so little to protect us, and our property, the mayors and council members and bureaucrats and administrators and the whole cabal, should be ashamed of themselves.

    • I like Lawrence suggestion but is it too cumbersome of a legal process to be practical. I mean do we have enough officers, jail space, court time to employ his suggestion?

  • File legal action against the city and Berkowitz. You will see the ball move then!

    • No file a complaint with EPA and fisheries….

  • I suspect the assembly’s unanimous resolution is nothing more than eyewash. They and the good mayor are in lockstep on all issues. The mayor has invested so many of our tax dollars and political patronage to now allow a reversal of his social agenda. Fundamentally, the squatter camping and lawless vagrant behavior will not stop until there are consequences for such illegal activity. The mayor essentially created this problem by allowing it to fester in the first place. Does anyone really believe he will change course now?

  • Withhold Property taxes until the Administration does something

  • Wonder where the “poor homeless” will be moved to next. Most likely into a neighborhood of conservatives that hasn’t been trashed yet. Homeless are one thing. These encampments are something else. Of course, some are ‘genuine’ homeless. Far too many are simply drop-outs. From lack of respect for others, social responsibility and participation, employment, decency, and the maintenance of law and order, to a litany of reasons for “living” their chosen lifestyle. They mix themselves in with real homeless in order to take advantage of the “free” services and mostly anonymous lifestyle. Care or concern about other peoples’ lives, property and associated negatives of this lifestyle, seems to be non-existent among these fraudulent “homeless”. Drugs, alcohol and infringing on others’ rights, prevalent in most cases.
    Another example of leftist “leadership”.

  • The past Assemblies of Traini, Gray-Jackson, Claman, Drummond, Johnston and the re-elected current Assembly have consistently supported Lawlessness, Crime, Drugs along with needles, drunk on street corners, Illegal Marijuana for several years. Constant, up until a few days ago, was a big supporter for the 3rd and Ingra Campus along with the Berkowitz Administration. Do tigers change their stripes or do birds of a feather flock together? There are a lot of words coming out of Schutte, Halcro, Constant, Felix, Berkowitz, you get the point, that are meaningless. I am ensured that the Camps will be all gone and cleaned up by July, I believe it because Schutte, Constant, Perez and most of the Assembly told me so. Oh, by the way Grey-Jackson, Johnston, Drummond and Claman are in Juneau promoting Berkowitz style Liberal Democrat Politics.

    • Forgot to give Felix His do, sorry.

      • Upon sending Felix a photo of our lovely “neighbors” taking a potty break in the middle of the ski trail, I was thanked and told to be sure to call 311. You can’t make this situation up, something tells me our parents generation (the hard hats) would have found a solution.

  • They have no money, we have no money. No jail space. What are you going to do, start making soylent green?

    • Do the same thing that was done to American Indians. They were ‘put on’ reservations. Instead of that ominous word, “reservation”, an area fairly close to the community but not infringing, could be called ” authorized homeless camping area” or whatever title or phrase fits. Any of the “homeless” camping outside those designated, permanent areas, away from established communities, would face admonishing and observation (not jail). As for “soylent green”, let those “homeless” work on Alaska’s farming enterprises and reward them with some of the food they help grow, free room for their tent, a furnished porta-potty and a dumpster for every dozen or so inhabitants. Make the area is far enough away from town to discourage drug trade on foot and provide periodic metro transport for that area so they’re not ‘cut off’. Give the inhabitants the value of self sufficiency, satisfaction, belonging in a community and discovering how gratifying the act of helping others and themselves, can be. Along with their efforts and determination, a path to the road out of the “homeless” situation, could very well be discovered.

      • Times are different. As far as I know, manifest destiny is over. We did away with paupers camps long ago. Did away with the poor farms. You are about 100 years too late. At the time, Indians were non-citizens. These mentally ill folks are however and have rights. It’s complicated.

        • Not “paupers” camps. Squatters, drug dealers, for the most part. Times are different. Issues aren’t. “Rights” are not the right to abuse others’ rights.

      • Please do not compare Native Americans to the homeless. Their land was taken from them and they were put on reservations. That is a shame America should have. This situation is totally different and as far as I am concerned they are breaking the law. Natives were not.

  • Maybe the city should set up a specific area for the homeless and let them do their thing. There will be a lot more homeless people being people aren’t working and can’t pay rent or mortgages. Cities did this durning the Great Depression. Medical people back then vouleentered to assist with medical care… I know this sounds gross… with shots, worming and delousing, etc… but it is a fact of life living on the streets ..I realize a lot are druggies and alcoholics. If something like this isn’t done they will move from place to place until they are told to move on again and again and again. It’s a vicious trail of moving.

  • They should be transported to the mayor and assembly members house and told they can live there. I think the mayor’s lawn would be a nice place to set up camp. I will help get them there.

  • Folks, no need to worry! We passed the “alcohol tax” and will now be throwing millions of dollars at this problem and it will be fixed, thank god for Mayor Berkowitz and the Assembly!

  • I can’t believe that Anchorage elected such an incompetent mayor, the idea of letting homeless drug addicts set up camp in downtown in order to protect them is some high level BS. Almost seems like Berkowitz has a hidden agenda, something along the lines of North Portland. What a frightening scenario.

  • Did we not get a gas tax put on us several years ago to deal with homelessness. Now the alcohol tax? Why did we turn Ben Boeke and Sullivan Arena over to the muni for homeless? Why aren’t they taken there and forced to stay until they have a permanent home? The Mayor wants to take our civil rights away but not theirs? Thank you assembly for doing something that should have been done months ago!

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