Anchorage Assembly sets stage for first ‘allowed camp’ in homelessness response

The Anchorage Assembly this week approved requirements and a process for establishing sanctioned homeless camps in the city, setting the stage for a possible pilot project this summer.

The legislation defines what a sanctioned camp would be, using the term “allowed camps”: a temporary sheltering area with separate spaces for tents or temporary small structures for basic shelter.

It sets out several standards and restrictions on such camps, including limiting the capacity to 60 people, requiring an operations plan approved by the Anchorage Health Department director, and limiting locations to vacant lots, parking lots or other open spaces with clear lines of sight and minimal trees or vegetation. Camps cannot be located in densely wooded areas or public use trails, greenbelts or playgrounds.

Members passed the ordinance in a 7-4 vote Tuesday night. The move is another step by Anchorage city officials to broaden the city’s approach to homelessness to include sanctioned camping.

Last month the Assembly passed a resolution calling for Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration to open a sanctioned camping area by July 17 on a vacant plot of city owned land at 40th Avenue and Denali Street in Midtown, near Cuddy Park. It asked the administration to purchase and set up 30 small prefabricated shelter structures for year-round use at the Midtown site.

Tuesday’s measure reversed that previous specification, opening up a pilot camp project to another location of the administration’s choosing, using the site requirements set out.

It’s not clear whether the administration will take action. Bronson’s homeless coordinator, Alexis Johnson, told Assembly members that the administration is “amenable” to establishing a sanctioned camp, but that the effort would take away focus and resources from opening enough emergency shelter for the coming winter.


More than 700 people are living unsheltered in Anchorage, with hundreds camping in the city’s parks, greenspaces and in a few large encampments. No walk-in, low-barrier shelter exists in the city. With limited funding and resources available, city officials are hard-pressed to prioritize solutions.

[9th Circuit court decision ‘reaffirms’ Anchorage can’t dismantle homeless camps without indoor shelter]

The mayor on Tuesday night said the city should instead focus on intensively managing the already large encampments in the city: one at Third Avenue and Ingra Street on the northeast edge of downtown, where 200-plus people are living, and one in and around Davis Park in Mountain View, where another 150 have been staying.

“My ask of the Assembly is this — that we come together and find a way to intensively manage these camps. Because I sat with two of my directors in the parking lot at Third and Ingra and watched drug deals go down. I’m seeing we’re now storing boats at Third and Ingra,” Bronson said. “... We’ve got a lot of bad behavior out there and there’s probably a good 10 to 15 people that simply need to be put under control, forcefully, because the victims are the people who are the peaceful people that are living in tents there. So, I think if we manage that site very intensively, I think the the local community there would be more amenable to that.”

Bronson also said he has “real problems setting things up at 40th and Denali” because of pushback from residents, and said that opening an allowed camp at the Midtown site would be “spreading the problem.”

[Anchorage is considering setting up a sanctioned homeless camp with small, temporary shelters. Here’s how that might work.]

Last month, the city cleared a large homeless encampment in Cuddy Park and the adjacent lot ahead of a long-scheduled music festival, triggering a lawsuit from the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Later, the city reversed its plans to clear the encampments in the Davis Park area after the ACLU again took legal action.

Bronson could nix Tuesday’s legislation with a mayoral veto. The Assembly would need a total of eight votes to override a veto from Bronson — which is one more vote than the measure received.

[Bronson administration set to open Golden Lion to homeless as Assembly delays funding votes]

Assembly members Scott Myers, George Martinez, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Chair Christopher Constant voted against it. Vice Chair Meg Zaletel, who is also the executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, was recused and did not vote.

The legislation was initially proposed by Assembly members George Martinez, Zac Johnson and Kevin Cross, but the Assembly ultimately approved a different version Tuesday.

The approved draft was sponsored by Assembly member Felix Rivera, chair of the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee. Rivera’s version focused the measure on setting up a path to open a singular test project, rather than establishing a broader process and permitting for multiple sanctioned camps.

“If we’re actually working to get a pilot site up and running this summer, we need to cut red tape,” Rivera said in a prepared statement.

“This is not a sole solution to ending homelessness, but it can be a tool on our path to providing housing first, should the administration choose to use it,” he said in the statement.

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