The Anchorage Assembly, in a special meeting on Monday, voted to approve $2.4 million in funding for the Assembly’s plan to house about 350 homeless people for three months.
That’s a cost of over $6,800 per person for the three months, or $2,285 per homeless person for housing alone, per month beginning on Oct. 1. That only pays for housing the homeless through December through this plan. It does not include services such as free meals and social services.
The ball is now in the mayor’s court. The Assembly majority has blocked his ability to erect a navigation center in time for winter, and he has said that addressing the homeless problem in Anchorage is one of his priorities.
The Assembly majority, after preventing any of Mayor Dave Bronson’s own plans from being implemented, offered its own plan, which includes the controversial Golden Lion Hotel, which was part of former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s expenditures when he bought the hotel for the city to use as a drug treatment facility in 2020, before he left office in disgrace. Many on the Assembly are aligned politically with Berkowitz and continue his left-leaning legacy.
During the debate over the purchase of the Golden Lion in 2020, however, the Assembly passed an ordinance that promised it would not be used to house the homeless.
The Assembly’s new plan also includes reopening the Sullivan Arena for 150 people who are unsheltered but also unsuited to live in a structured hotel environment, and adding funding for nonprofit shelters so they can accommodate a few more people.
The Sullivan Arena was commandeered by Berkowitz during the Covid pandemic to spread homeless people out and slow down the spread of Covid in traditional shelters around town. It was used as a mass shelter for two years, closing at the end of June, when Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration opened up a campground for people to use without having to pay a campground fee.
Centennial Campground has sanitary facilities and social service agencies have provided food trucks with free meals for people camping there this past summer.The campground is set to close on Friday, as snow makes its way down the mountains. Temperatures at night are reaching in the low 40s this week in the Anchorage bowl.
The ball is in the mayor’s court now, as the Assembly has signaled it will not approve any of his plans, and will only fund the plans that come from the Assembly.