Take a video tour alongside MRAK of Alaska’s largest cold-weather shelter with coordinator Alexis Johnson

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Anchorage has an ordinance that requires the municipality to provide cold-weather shelter when the average temperature in the city drops below 45 degrees. That usually means September. As summer came to an end in 2022, Mayor Dave Bronson ordered the Centennial Campground closed to homeless and transient campers, and re-opened the Sullivan Arena, which currently houses around 360 people on cots set in rows across the main surface of what used to be a space filled with ice for hockey.

Alexis Johnson, Anchorage’s homeless coordinator, gave Must Read Alaska’s John Quick a tour of the facility, which you can view at the link below and where you can also hear Rob Seay, a community liaison, tell inspirational stories about people getting back on their feet. One aspect that video reporter John Quick noticed about the shelter is that it is tidy, clean, orderly, and quiet. This is a shelter that most of the members of the Anchorage Assembly have never seen — but you can:

Thank you to Mayor Dave Bronson for allowing Must Read Alaska to produce this video.

70 COMMENTS

  1. So nice to see a compassionate success story. The people who make this happen deserve our appreciation and respect. But I suppose it won’t be long before snarky comments about sending the homeless to Seattle, San Francisco, or back to the Villages will start rolling in. They always do…

    • Another note of improvement, at least the author of this blog isn’t referring to them as bums and vagrants anymore. Lets hope that’s the new standard from here on out for her.

      • Since when did it become wrong or unkind to use clear and descriptive language in describing a tangible situation? Vagrant is not condemnatory language, rather the appropriate use of the word as defined. Merriam-Webster’s definition: “one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support”. This is the definition of what is happening in our city. This is not derogatory, but factual.

    • We could probably send a boatload of them to Whidbey as well, Thedog…

      How much extra space to you have to house them and how much spare change do you have to feed them with?

      • We have plenty of our own homeless, Dear Auntie, for which my taxes go to help them just like your taxes do. And may I say how impressed I am by the depth and breadth of your Christian compassion.

        If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 1 John 3:17.

    • Whidby, you say, “The people who make this happen deserve our appreciation and respect.” You are right that they deserve respect for getting up in the morning and going to work producing results and paying taxes. However, they don’t deserve any more respect than anyone else who does the same and any other paid occupation. Now, if the “Anchorage Homeless Coordinator” worked voluntarily without pay then she would deserve a higher level of respect. Compare it to the irony of calling a nurse a care-giver when, in fact, she is a care-seller. In summary, speaking in feel-good, false, platitudes does not help our culture improve.

      • What a cold and embittered outlook on life. Let’s see if you still feel that way next time some firefighter risks his/her life to pull you out of your burning pickup, or when some nurse cleans you up in the hospital when you’re incontinent and cr+p all over yourself.

        Some people do things for reasons other than money. But I guess that whole idea is lost on you. It’s called altruism. I know that’s a pretty big word, so you may need to look it up.

        • Funny you chose nurses & firefighters, two very well paid jobs, w/ excellent benefits.
          I built the house that the fireman pulled someone from. Before the fireman did his job (for very good pay) I did my job, for less pay. The rescued person lived for YEARS protected from the elements because I did my job (for pay) so they didn’t freeze to death.
          Wayne is not being “cold” we do our jobs for $. Fire personal & nurses do their jobs for very good $ (compared to a lot of us). Capitalism. Wayne’s right, nurses are “service sellers” Reduce fire & nursing pay by just 25% and watch them all ‘drag up’ (construction talk) & go find something less altruistic.

  2. The majority of the Anchorage Assembly would never set foot in there because it is succesful. The majority of the assembly does not want to see a successful solution/ resolution to the homeless situation in Anchorage, because that would mean a few things: 1) Mayor Bronson is being succesful, despite their stone-walling him at every turn. 2) That a solution they didn’t come up with was succesful without them and n-spite of their best efforts to obstruct/ derail the project. 3) The end to their gravy-train of profit from the Homeless Industrial Complex that they perpetuate to line their pockets with other-peoples-money and allow them to continually virtue-signal. 4) Further proof that they are irrelevent in the big scheme of things…

    • Exactly, they are all talk …. no action.
      Half the homeless have NO interest in the social workers & rules the Assembly have planned for them
      The entire process was started by a couple of Catholic Brothers w/out MOA money as I recall.

      Now, local pols spend dollar after dollar & the situation gets worse & worse.
      Partly because atheists will not acknowledge the ‘higher power’ or religious values, required by many, to heal themselves. They HAVE to want to heal themselves, no amount of money will accomplish that.

  3. Every time I hear KTUU refer to the “people” staying at the Sullivan as “clients” I want to punch them in the face. To me, a client, is someone who pays for another’s service. NOT a serial handout receiver!!

  4. I love to see and hear stories of people lifting themselves up out of substance abuse and becoming a whole person again. I champion their efforts and their newfound purpose on life. Bravo.

  5. Lots of roofs need to be shoveled in Anchorage and a great opportunity for homeless., some homeowners may be willing to pay 1K per roof or more, just sign release of liability papers, or would the courts find some way around that?

    • Well to some it may sound like a good idea, it’s not the 1930s and the TVA isn’t Anchorage. I think it would be a dangerous proposition for some of these folks to get up on a slippery roof. Some may not even be in good enough physical shape to shovel a sidewalk or a set of steps. I’m guessing the homeowners liability policy would still be in effect because these people can’t be considered contract labor.

      • Greg,
        Very few want to work. It’s so much easier being taken care of by the government. Most are mentally ill, and some are homicidal. In fact, many have become emboldened by liberal generosity. They have become dangerous, especially to women and children.

        • So, Mary, what would you suggest we do? I guess you’d like to just wish away the homeless, or worse, but that doesn’t really fix anything. The only real solution, imperfect as it is, is to try to rescue as many as possible, turn them back into productive human beings, and rejoice in your successes when you can.

          For a group that purportedly cares so deeply about a two-celled embryo’s right to life. you sure don’t seem care very much about the fully-formed people freezing to death on your streets.

          • I couldn’t help but notice that you actually think that you and your “altruistic” efforts can fix people, like a plumber can fix a broken toilet. Remember, people have free will and many vagrants of this city have chosen this path and you, regardless of dollars spent or hours invested, cannot fix them because they do not want to be fixed.

            I am all for providing a social safety net for those who need it. But this safety net is not an endless handout to a committed vagrant.

            You can’t fix people problems if they don’t want to be fixed.

          • Whidbey,
            I’d like to send a few dozen homeless to your house so you can take care of them. You good with that, Mr. Compassion?

  6. What difference does a matter what kind of a name tag you want to stick on them? The human beings in need. Fortunately you’re not in their shoes. Try showing a little compassion and tact

    • Yup. Stop spending money on the homeless, you’ll get less of them.

      This is liberal “compassion” at its finest. Warehouse people and feed their failures instead of trying to get them genuine help. Genuine help might hurt feelings. Plus it’s other people’s money. Liberal’s favorite kind.

      • I like to do the random act of kindness at my age. It was a time when I sponsored walks such as the super cities 20 mile walk, and I worked with the big brothers organization. Nowadays, I’ll buy a $5 Rose from them on the side of the road, or if I see one living on a bus bench, I like to go buy him a Whopper or some other sandwich and drop that off for them. Once I saw a homeless person in McDonald’s get a cup of hot water from the kitchen and was tearing open ketchup packs to mix with the hot water for some sort of a soup. I bought him a real meal that day. You’re not going to totally solve the problem but random acts of kindness do go a long way giving the person a brief moment of civility Plus all those things go in my Black box.

        • Many of us used to give more to charities in the past, Greggy, in hope that we could help those who were down on their luck get back on their feet but we’ve found that there are just far too many among the downtrodden who’re bums because they’ve chosen to be bums.

          We find ourselves these days plagued by an abundance of serial dirtbags who have no interest in bettering themselves, we have government reaching into our purses and pockets at ever increasing levels, and we have an assortment of disgusting well-heeled middlemen from the homeless industrial complex skimming off increasingly bigger chunks of tax dollars for themselves all along the way – here’s looking at you, Meg…

          Irrespective of your twisted imaginings, the fact of the matter is that the state should disallow villages from banishing their riffraff, bums from the villages and outside should be strongly incentivised to go back where they came from, vagrancy laws should be enforced, and the soiled welcome mat for all of them should be burned to fine ash.

          Once the voluntary bums have been cleaned out, the needs of the genuinely mentally ill and the truly unfortunate who’ve found themselves in a temporary bad spot could be much better met while the rest of us could enjoy a safer and healthier community with more of our own money available to donate to charities or spend as we please.

          • Let me expand Aunt Sally’s comment a bit further, as she seems to have left out a sentence or two:

            “Many of us used to give more to charities in the past, Greggy, in (the) hope that we could help those who were down on their luck get back on their feet but we’ve found that there are just far too many among the downtrodden who’re bums because they’ve chosen to be bums.

            Happily, this situation has given us just the excuse we need to eliminate our contributions altogether while not bothering our conscience in the slightest. We now sleep warmly and well at night, having rationalized away any hint of guilt that we might have felt. A contented, guilt-free life is such a wonderful thing, wouldn’t you agree. Praise the Lord!”

          • Yo Dog… interesting comment you’ve made and it would appear that you support bums primarily because you’ve been conditioned to feel guilty if you do not.

            I’m free of such nonsense myself though I can’t help but wonder; you are not local to Alaska and IIRC you are in WA and you’re posting under a name like Widbey to imply that you may live there. If so there are comparatively few bums and no locals there that live near the poverty line.

            We understand that you like bums. What do you do to support them in areas near you where they’re thick?

      • Needless to say that without it, you’d give exactly zero to help. I am so glad I’m not you, Dear Jefferson.

  7. 45°? That’s a tropical day in Alaska. Anything above O° is warm. Do they need satellite TV, Netflix hook-up, electric blankets, pizza delivery, and cigarettes too?

    • No, none of that, just a little empathy and compassion, you know, treat them like the human beings that they are.

      • Frosty, sorry to say, but sentiments such as yours, as true and correct as they are, won’t find acceptance here on MRAK. This place is for the coldhearted, the cruel, the merciless – most of whom purport to subscribe to the Christian ethic, but don’t actually have it in their hearts.

        What a sad, sad bunch.

        • It is easy to be “compassionate” with other people’s money, Whidbey.
          .
          You statists are all the same: the only ‘solution’ to the problems usually created by governmental coercion, is more coercion. Your entire political philosophy is the law of the jungle writ large — might makes right, and the ends justify the means.

        • Damn dog, why don’t you tell us what’s on your mind? Actually you hit the nail squarely and solidly on the head. I come come here for entertainment and news. Others come here to further harden their heart.

    • Yep.
      Maybe the next story should be on the veritable LOADS of Muni $$$ that were spent by Berkowitz souping up the joint to entice people in…

      • The immediate need is food and shelter. That’s the easy part. How do you cure mental health caused by any number of triggers? Humanly of course. Anchorage has inherited this issue obviously the state needs to address it. And how will the state do that? Any number of different ways put in the end what we’re talking about here is money. You folks want the problem to go away, I’ve read send them down south, send them back to the villages, put them in a group home, do whatever it takes so I don’t have to look at them. Until society changes its mood on the homeless, and takes a real look at it including financing the solution, you will continue to have this debate unfortunately for Alaska, it’s cold up there and people need shelter. What little homeless there is down here in Florida is not as big an issue and most take care of themselves. That’s not the case in Anchorage where the population turns a blind eye.

  8. Since they’re in the Sullivan Arena, let’s just have “The Homeless Games.” Anchorage could even host the Homeless Olympics. Charge at the door and raise money for the Municipality.
    .
    Bedroll competition.
    Campfire competition.
    Longest without a bath competition.
    Cigarette rolling competition.
    Headlice counting competition.
    Least amount of TP used competition.
    Most money panhandled in 10 minutes.
    Best corner sign competition.
    .
    Assembly can hand out medals to winners.

      • Her Forkener,
        You admitted you like “entertainment.”. See your post above. Well here it is. Have you no sense of humor? All of that sun and beach in Florida still makes you a grumpy man. See ya at the Sullivan Arena.

      • The Homeless Games. I see that everyday and night at our local trash transit site. Fred Meyers has their own version of the Games at each nearby intersection. Interesting spectator sport.

        • Spectators would fill the Sullivan Arena to watch the Homeless Games. Best entertainment in town. Two more competitions:

          . Most number of teeth missing while still eating a hard apple;
          . Heaviest homeless person (different height classes).

  9. A cup of compassion & a blanket may keep a “sorry soul ” warm for a night but it will not change his/hers future without a self conviction to change that sorry soul into ” I can become better “! Few find that way overnight no matter ! Success is measured one “sorry soul change ” at a time! Good article Suzanne !

  10. For the love god take down the ACES banners you turned a lovely hockey barn into a homeless shelter and leave up the banners of the greatest sports team in anchorage history . Have you no shame liberals oh wait I already now the answer to that question.

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