Anchorage Assembly spends $1.5 million to house homeless and sets aside money for shelter pilot project

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday directed $1.5 million to a local nonprofit that is working to move 150 people out of emergency winter homeless shelters and into permanent housing by the end of April.

Assembly members also set aside $500,000 for a possible pilot project to operate one or more transitional shelter programs using small modular structures, such as prefabricated Pallet shelters or locally made tiny homes.

In a 10-1 vote during Tuesday’s special meeting, members approved a measure directing the $1.5 million to the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel, who is also the executive director of the coalition, recused herself from the vote.

The coalition is partnering with the city and local social service providers to pilot a housing initiative modeled on a system in Houston that reduced homelessness in the Texas city by more than 60% over the last decade.

Mayor Dave Bronson, who has been largely focused on temporary shelter over housing, has voiced support for the pilot. In December, Bronson, Assembly members and local providers met with leaders of Houston’s homelessness and housing system to learn more about it.

[Anchorage city leaders look to Houston’s homelessness efforts for solutions]

Anchorage’s housing initiative will provide a year of support to the people it moves from homelessness into housing, paying for 200 hours of case management for each. It will help pay for deposits, rent, utilities, holding fees for units, and fees to get individuals ready, like IDs and documentation, applications, viewings and transportation.


Proponents of the model say providing housing with supportive services is the best solution to homelessness, and it’s less costly than paying for shelter. The coalition has estimated it will cost up to about $31,000 per person for a year — which is about $25 per day less than the cost of providing emergency shelter per person.

The housing initiative’s total cost will be about $4.63 million, the coalition estimates.

Assembly member Felix Rivera, who chairs the Housing and Homelessness Committee, backed the measure.

Between 200 and 300 people are currently living unsheltered in the city, sleeping on streets or in vehicles and camping in parks and greenspaces. Another 574 people are staying in the city’s three emergency shelters, which are slated to close at the end of April, Rivera said.

“Add it all up, that’s about 874 individuals that, come April 30, we’re going to need to have some plan for — for at least as many of those individuals as possible,” he said.

So far the initiative has moved 17 people from shelter into housing and has plans to house 30 more people this week, city homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson told the Housing and Homelessness Committee at a Wednesday meeting.

Rivera also pushed for the Assembly to set aside $500,000 for a transitional shelter pilot program, and members also approved that measure in a 10-1 vote. (Zaletel was recused and did not vote.) The measure calls for the city to run a public procurement process and issue a request for proposal (RFP) from potential operators.

Last summer, when winter shelters closed and hundreds of people began living outside with nowhere else to stay, city officials began seriously considering funding one or more small villages of modular shelters as a way to help alleviate the crisis.

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

If officials want to see “a less chaotic situation than last summer,” then the city should try a variety of ways to provide support to people experiencing homelessness, Rivera said.

The Assembly in November looked at a proposal to shelter 30 to 45 people in modular shelters from Washington-based company Pallet, estimated to cost $500,000 to fund a year of operations.

But several Assembly members balked. In previous meetings, they expressed concern about a lack of specifics, such as location and a detailed operations plan. Several members also wanted to hold an open bidding process for funding such a pilot program.

Members included the stipulation that any bid awarded by the city will also go back to the Assembly for approval before the money is spent.

“Setting aside the funds doesn’t commit us, in the end, to the idea. It just commits us to setting aside the funds, going through the work and then putting out an RFP. And then at that point, once we get results from an RFP, we can say yes or no,” Rivera said.

Assembly member Scott Myers voted against both measures. He did not state his reasons during Assembly discussions on Tuesday.

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