Assembly votes to let churches, agencies shelter homeless

Rosemary Shinohara

The Anchorage Assembly has approved a plan to allow designated churches and social service facilities to provide overnight shelter to homeless people when the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below.

The cold weather plan, which emerged from the mayor's task force on homelessness, specifies that churches be allowed to take in homeless families and individuals who are not under the influence of alcohol or other substances not prescribed for them.

People who are drunk or high can go to inebriate reception centers, which can't boot anyone out in cold weather without cause.

The Assembly on Tuesday night put off another matter regarding the homeless, postponing until its June 22 meeting a measure setting rules for how and when police can clear out illegal homeless camps.

The current law lets police clear out homeless camps with as little as 12 hours' notice. The ACLU has sued the city over that law, saying the short notice violates constitutional rights of homeless people, who lose their property.

The administration of Mayor Dan Sullivan has proposed giving homeless people camping on public lands such as parks five business days to move out after the camp is posted.

Assembly member Patrick Flynn this week proposed extending that time to seven business days. He offered a substitute version of the law.

The Assembly held a public hearing on the issue in May, and Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, proposed campers be given 10 days' notice. The Assembly was scheduled to resume discussion of the issue this week, but put it off because one Assembly member was absent.

Find Rosemary Shinohara online at or call her at 257-4340.

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