Awaiting state funding for homeless shelter, Anchorage Assembly extends operator’s contract through July

Still awaiting final word from the governor on a potential $4 million in state funding for homeless sheltering, the Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved about $426,000 in “bridge funding” to keep the municipality’s shelter open through the end of July.

In May, the Alaska Legislature included $4 million in the state budget to keep the city’s 200-bed mass shelter open from July through the end of the year. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has through Friday to issue any budget line-item vetoes.

The city is currently going through a public bidding process to secure a new organization to take over shelter operations in August, said Alexis Johnson, city homeless coordinator under Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration.

“This just buys us a little bit more time to get the governor’s budget, get the (memorandum of understanding) in place and then get the money appropriated and new operators on site,” Johnson said.

The Assembly redirected $288,580 in unused funds that were earmarked under a contract with United Way of Anchorage, plus $122,324 in alcohol tax funds that were set aside for non-emergency transportation during the city’s emergency cold weather sheltering. Members approved another $15,420 to fully fund June operations.

It’s possible the city’s funding for July could be reimbursed if the state funding comes through, according to memorandums from the Health Department.

Anchorage opened the shelter in October as part of its emergency winter homeless sheltering plan. It is located on 56th Avenue in Midtown in a former Solid Waste Services administrative building.


Two other city shelters in local hotels closed at the end of May. Unsheltered homelessness has since swelled, with homeless residents camping and living in vehicles within parks and along streets across the city.

[Midtown Anchorage camp where a man was killed is a site of despair and dysfunction, neighbors say]

The shelter’s current operator, local nonprofit Henning Inc., will now stay until August at the shelter, under a contract extension approved by the Assembly on Tuesday.

Henning leaders previously said the operator would leave the shelter after June. It is not seeking another long-term contract with the city to run the shelter, said Shawn Hays, Henning’s founder and executive director, on Wednesday.

The city asked if Henning would renew for one month “because they knew that things would not be finalized in time and there would be 200 people on the streets,” she said.

“We would not let that happen,” Hays added.

The nonprofit came under fire last month after the Assembly’s chair obtained leaked screenshots of group text messages sent between Henning Inc.’s top executives, including Hays, and the Bronson administration’s homeless coordinator, Johnson.

Assembly members said the texts raised concerns about how Henning was managing city shelters and questions about whether some staff may have attempted to influence clients to vote for Bronson in the recent city election.

Hays and another executive have said the text messages were taken “grossly out of context” and have denied doing anything unethical or illegal, or violating its city contracts for operating shelters.

The Assembly called for the Health Department to investigate and issue a report on the situation.

Municipal Manager Kent Kohlhase on Wednesday said he expects the report will be sent to Assembly leaders next week. City officials are currently performing a final review of the report draft, he said.

On Wednesday, Hays reiterated her statements and said she is also awaiting the final report, because a preliminary review found no violations.

Hays said after July, the organization will return to focusing on its transitional and permanent housing services.

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