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Anchorage will move to abate homeless camps starting this week

A homeless camp near 3rd Avenue and Ingra Street in downtown Anchorage on April 17, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night asking the Berkowitz administration to immediately notice, abate and clean up homeless camps.

The resolution, sponsored by Assembly members Meg Zaletel, Chris Constant and Crystal Kennedy, states that in addition to abatement, outreach services should be offered and “No Camping” signs should be posted at the city’s arguably most notorious homeless camp at Third Avenue and Ingra Street. The vote was 11 to zero.

The city appears to be listening. Also at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, Jason Bockenstedt, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the municipality plans to post 10-day abatement notices on Thursday at camps at Third and Ingra and on the Chester Creek trail between Ingra and C Street.

The city is planning to hire 20 parks and recreation employees to begin the first phase of camp abatement on May 11.

A second phase will start in June along the Chester Creek trail from C Street to Westchester Lagoon.

Chris Schutte, Anchorage’s economic and community development director, said camps along Chester Creek pose a particular public safety concern due to wildfire risk as Alaska moves into the drier, warmer months of the year.

In addition to abatement, the city is considering setting up satellite resource hubs in neighborhoods with high numbers of unsheltered people as it has done at the Sullivan and Ben Boeke mass shelters, Schutte said.

In the arena parking lots, service providers are working under tents to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing, employment and treatment options. The new satellite hubs would also provide information about the new coronavirus, and may offer hand-washing stations, portable toilets and masks, he said.

Austin Quinn-Davidson, who represents West Anchorage, asked Schutte if camps in her district could be cleaned up sooner than June.

“If we can do it faster, we certainly will,” said Schutte.

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