Anchorage Assembly sets aside $6 million for homeless shelter design and possible purchase of two hotels

Anchorage city leaders are setting aside $3.2 million toward the possible purchase of two hotels — the Sockeye Hotel in Midtown and the Barratt Inn in Spenard — and another $2.8 million toward the possible design of a large East Anchorage homeless shelter and navigation center.

In a unanimous vote late Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly approved a measure giving the Alaska Community Foundation the money in grant form, a total of $6 million, to help implement the city’s homelessness strategy. Another $6 million is expected in philanthropic matches toward the city’s plan, said members of the Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration.

Tuesday’s vote is the first time the city has identified any specific sites for moving forward with its plan.

If purchased, the Sockeye would become a medical convalescence facility for up to 120 people, according to an Assembly memorandum detailing the plans. The Barratt would become workforce and permanent supportive housing for up to 150 people.

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On Thursday, the city is issuing a request for proposal for the design of a 200-person shelter on a piece of city-owned land near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads in East Anchorage. That land is currently the Anchorage Police Department’s evidence vehicle lot.

The shelter would have “surge capacity” for another 130 people, and could shelter a total of 330, according to the memorandum. It’s the same East Anchorage site that Bronson and the Assembly clashed over when the mayor previously proposed building a larger, 450-person temporary-structure shelter there — a proposal the Assembly quickly quashed due to costs and other concerns.


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Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant urged other members to vote in favor of the ordinance on Tuesday, saying that it must pass quickly and with no real changes so that an investor can put $2 million toward the projects that would otherwise soon expire. Assembly members were unable to immediately answer whether that $2 million is in addition to the expected $6 million investment.

“If we don’t pass this tonight, in a form that is acceptable to all parties, we lose that opportunity and $2 million goes a long ways to getting people off the streets and out of the mass care centers,” he said.

The city’s current homelessness plan is a compromise between the Assembly and Bronson, laid out in an Assembly resolution that passed last month. It outlines an agreed-upon “exit strategy” from using Sullivan Arena as a mass care homeless shelter and is the result of a monthslong negotiation process after conflicts over Bronson’s earlier shelter proposal.

The new plan details a strategy to handle the city’s homelessness issues using a “scattered site” model, with five different types of housing and facilities. That includes a shelter and navigation center for single adults; a “special population facility” also with a navigation center; a medical convalescence facility; substance misuse treatment with housing; and workforce and permanent supportive housing units.

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The hotel purchases would be made through a public-private partnership with donors, including the Rasmuson Foundation and Weidner Apartment Homes, and likely Premera Blue Cross and Providence as well, Constant said.

Those donors in 2019 pledged $40 million to combat homelessness in Anchorage as part of a five-year plan.

It is not certain if the Assembly will approve one of the design proposals resulting from the RFP process for a Tudor-Elmore shelter, Constant said. The $2.8 million is earmarked for the design of a shelter — but only if it makes sense, he said. It could be that construction costs will be too high to move forward with the project, he said.

There are about 500 vehicles stored in the police department’s evidence vehicle lot at the site. Previously, the Assembly heard conflicting estimates for the cost of relocating it — a $4 million estimate from the police department, and an estimate of a little more than $659,000 from the Bronson administration.

“There are outstanding questions like where to move the cars, how much is that going to cost, how much will it cost to connect to the sewer?” Constant said.

It’s also possible that a favorable proposal could suggest putting the shelter elsewhere in Anchorage, Assembly member John Weddleton said. Proposals are due by Jan. 17, according to the memorandum.

“The goal is to turn dirt in March, April — whatever it is or wherever,” Weddleton said.

The Alaska Community Foundation, along with a governance group, will oversee the money for the projects. That group will include the mayor or his representative; Felix Rivera, the chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness; and a representative from the Rasmuson Foundation, according to the memorandum.

Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who is also the interim executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, said it’s not certain that those hotels will be purchased — or what entity will own the buildings if they’re purchased.

“We’re having conversations with potential options, and ultimately there’s work being done on an overall governance structure for the properties ... to see how those could be held as partnership or an aggregate,” Zaletel said.

Though the Assembly voted unanimously to earmark the money for the projects, Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who represents East Anchorage, made several failed attempts to change the plan and reduce the size of the possible Tudor-Elmore shelter.


The Assembly recently passed changes to city code that limit the size of shelters in the city to 150, and the proposed shelter would need a variance, he said. Many residents are concerned about the impact a shelter of that size could have on the neighborhood and would prefer a 175-bed shelter with no additional surge capacity, he said.

The University Area Community Council, which covers an area directly north of the proposed shelter site, sent a letter to the Assembly calling for a smaller, 150- to 175-person shelter with no surge capacity.

”If it is built with beds and services for 330 people, then the surge capacity is irrelevant. It’s just a 330-bed mega shelter, the largest in the city and the largest permanent shelter in the history of the city,” Dunbar said.

Assemblyman Weddleton, a member of the homelessness negotiation group, disagreed. The success of shelters comes from having good services available on site and more services as part of the larger homeless care system, which is what the city plans to do, he said. Weddleton said there are much larger shelters around the country that are successful and do not harm their neighborhoods.

“If the services are adequate, then 200, 300, 400 — those are not mega shelters at all,” Weddleton said.

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Weddleton also said proposals for its design could be any sort of structure or brick-and-mortar building, not just the tent-like Sprung Structures facility that Bronson had previously pushed for.

As the mayor’s administration and the Assembly try to move forward on homelessness policy and an exit strategy for Sullivan Arena, Bronson’s homelessness team has seen a string of leadership changes.


In October, the administration fired Shawn Hays, the city’s mass care branch chief overseeing the Sullivan Arena shelter. That happened following a rough transition to a new shelter manager and a Daily News report that that a man who stayed at the Sullivan for about a month had been found languishing there in a near-death state by his daughter. Later, the contractor running the shelter fired its original on-site manager.

John Morris, the city’s homeless coordinator and part of the negotiation team, resigned in October. Craig Campbell, who was part of Bronson’s negotiation team, also resigned that month.

Joe Gerace, the new Anchorage Health Department director, and Dave D’Amato, the department’s new human services division manager, have taken Morris and Campbell’s spots in planning and negotiations for Bronson. Both will oversee the city’s homelessness programs from their health department positions.

Michele Brown and Bob Doehl (formerly with the city until he resigned in October) are also part of the planning process, representing the Rasmuson Foundation. So are Assembly members Constant, Weddleton and Zaletel, though Zaletel is now involved through her position with the coalition and not as an Assembly member.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at