Homelessness is a problem for all of society. The homeless face chaos and uncertainty living in camps where they have no facilities, no ownership and are subject to eviction with little notice or options. Without facilities, they expose the rest of us to unsanitary waste and are a drain on our public resources.
The 2018 three-year Anchorage Community Plan to End Homelessness has a goal of achieving and maintaining functional zero homelessness. The cost is $23,000 per unit, per year, and there are currently 773 on the waiting list. That's $17.8 million per year, plus other associated costs.
The crisis is now. We don't have three years, and we don't have $18 million per year to spend this year and every year in the future. An affordable solution can be implemented with the stroke of a pen, and it is available right now.
Centennial Park has all of the amenities necessary to immediately serve the homeless as a model community designation with 88 campsites (21 with electricity and 67 without), plus two group sites, restrooms, showers, an RV dump station, a picnic shelter with tables, and bear-resistant trash containers. It is 15 minutes from downtown and on a bus line.
Reasonable usage rules must be established and communicated to the people using the benefits being offered them. The fee structure will have to be eliminated or altered.
The log cabin visitor center can be used as a meeting place where agencies offering services can meet with their clientele.
Simultaneously, the municipality should adopt and implement a policy of zero tolerance for squatting on public or private land and zero tolerance for public inebriation.
Along with this, the municipality needs to provide and regularly service a cluster of porta-potties near Bean's Cafe and any other site that is a magnet for the homeless community.
Someone has the authority to do this. I don't know if it is the Assembly, Nancy Burke, the Municipal Homeless Coordinator, or Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, but we've had enough committee meetings, enough studies, enough slick brochures. What we need is action, and we need action now.
I'm asking the Assembly to identify the person who has the authority to make this happen, to submit this option to that person with the Assembly's favorable recommendation, and for that person to either direct that this plan be implemented or tell the public why not and give us an alternate plan to be implemented — now.
— Arlene Carle