Outdoor homeless deaths in Anchorage continue to mount

A staggering 43 people believed to be homeless have died outdoors in Anchorage this year, according to data from the Anchorage Police Department.

With two and a half winter months left to go in 2023, the city is approaching double the number of outdoor deaths than the previous year. At the end of 2022, a then-record 24 people had died homeless outside in Anchorage, which leaders called “a failure ... in the system.”

This year, the city recorded its 24th outdoor death back in June.

The Daily News uses incident reports from the Anchorage Police Department to track deaths of people found outdoors with no fixed address at the time of their death. The data, going back to 2017, doesn’t capture every death of a person experiencing homelessness in the city — homelessness can be a fluid state, and the data doesn’t account for people who die in hospitals, by vehicle accidents or in homicides.

Still, city leaders have called outdoor deaths an important measure of how Anchorage is doing in caring for unhoused people, and has made preventing such deaths a priority.

At a visit to the Third Avenue and Ingra Street camp earlier this month, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said he was concerned by the number of deaths and had been briefed by the police chief.

This week, the city is beginning to move hundreds of unhoused people on a waitlist into hotel rooms at the Aviator and Alex hotels. A planned mass shelter in the former Solid Waste Services administrative building is expected to open near the end of October or early November.


Of the deaths so far this year, 62% happened in the months since the Sullivan Arena closed and hundreds of people began to camp in city lots, parks and greenbelts. During a summer surge of deaths, six people died in a four-day period in July.

[Anchorage outdoor deaths surge to a record since closure of Sullivan Arena shelter]

Some social service workers, including the municipal homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson, have said that the lack of supervision in informal tent camps may be contributing to increased deaths due to overdoses.

This year, police have found people dead in parks, cars, sleeping in business parking lots and in large camps such as at Third and Ingra and next to Cuddy Park. One man was found on the bleachers behind a middle school. Another was found by a creek; another in a ditch. Some of the deceased’s families have held funerals and fundraisers and have published obituaries. The people who have died included grandmothers and commercial fishermen and former standout high school athletes. Of those who have been identified, 28 have been men and 14 women.

Some of the deaths were discovered this year but may have happened earlier, including a woman whose mummified remains were found in a culvert near the Sullivan Arena in May. The woman’s case has been entered into a national missing and unidentified persons database.

In March, two men in their 50s were found dead together at Russian Jack park. The men died days apart, one from exposure and the other from untreated infection, police reports said.

While the causes of death are not known, police narratives and investigations in some cases hint at what may have happened. In August and September, the data shows five incidents in which police said a person was administered naloxone, which counters opioid overdoses, before being declared dead.

The oldest person who died was 71. The youngest was the most recent death reported, a 19-year-old woman who died at the large camp at Third and Ingra on Oct. 10.

ADN reporter Tess Williams contributed to this story.

• • •

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.