Opinions

Kudos to Anchorage leaders – now comes the hard work on homelessness

In July, we urged the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson to step away from a tug-of-war over preferred tactics to address homelessness and instead engage in a fact-based analysis of options, costs, timelines and efficacy for the community and people experiencing homelessness.

They did! Excellent facilitators assisted three members of the Assembly and three members of the mayor’s administration through challenging conversations. The group proposed a joint path forward.

This is good news for Anchorage! Kudos and thanks to the Assembly and mayor for passing, 10-0, a joint resolution to transition people out of the emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena and set forth a framework for long-term homelessness solutions.

This is a remarkable process and result. It is good policy and good politics to embrace a deliberative, collaborative and data-driven analysis to address a complex issue like homelessness. The collaboration and shared goals that were part of these discussions clearly demonstrate that working together in today’s political climate is possible and produces results.

The joint resolution is remarkable for its thorough, thoughtful focus on the outcomes to be achieved: stable housing and reduced community impacts. The framework tailors services and facilities to address the different needs and circumstances of people experiencing homelessness, and carefully sites facilities to be most appropriate for the community. Deploying multiple, interconnected paths to address homelessness, rather than isolated tactics or sites, is smart and effective.

The framework adds several new navigation centers, temporary shelter beds and new housing units throughout the city to augment existing privately run shelters and housing programs. Assembly members expressed their support for offering services at multiple sites to ensure optimal outcomes for the residents who use the services and to better safeguard the neighborhoods where the facilities are located.

Next will come an implementation plan. Larry Baker, a member of Mayor Bronson’s administration and on the negotiating team, said appropriation items for funding and several other measures will follow. “I think that it’s an important fact that, collectively, that over 22, 23 meetings, we’ve spent over 800 hours in this process. And that is a long time on a very important issue to this community.” Having the framework in place provides the direction and principles upon which the detailed work can begin for comprehensive project plans and for identifying the capital and operations funding sources.

We are members of the Anchorage Homelessness Leadership Council, a group of business and community leaders who guide and support Anchored Home, Anchorage’s community plan to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. We stand ready to help make this framework a reality, alongside our colleagues in social services, housing and health care; funders and policymakers; those with lived experience; and other residents of our city.

We strongly encourage all members of the Anchorage community to commit to the level of collaboration and rigor that led to this framework. It will take sharp policy and business acumen and a robust public-private partnership to successfully tackle the hard tasks to come:

  • Finalize selection of facilities and sites and the number of people to be served at each;
  • Establish the timeline that advances all aspects of this plan simultaneously and expeditiously;
  • Affirm facilities and site owners, operators, and service providers;
  • Secure capital funding for acquisition and renovation;
  • Secure operational funding;
  • Develop common operating principles, standards of care, and outcome measures for shelters, navigation centers and permanent housing and services provided at each site.

Thank you again to the mayor and Assembly for your hard work in devising this framework. It is a solid foundation. We are ready.

Diane Kaplan is president and CEO of Rasmuson Foundation.

Sophie Minich is president and CEO of Cook Inlet Region, Inc.

Dean Weidner is chairman and founder of Weidner Apartment Homes.

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