Recently, writers in these pages have spoken out about the chronic homeless in Anchorage: about the "homesteading" that has blighted some of our parks and trails, particularly along Chester Creek, and about compassion for those experiencing homelessness.
The attention is welcome. United Way of Anchorage and dozens of partners are working on a program for stable housing for the hardest to house — those who are chronically homeless, do time in jail and make frequent use of emergency services. Some can be belligerent, obnoxious and menacing. Often they suffer from mental illness, addiction or other disabilities.
We spend a small fortune now on the current cycle of jail, street, emergency room. Better to invest in housing, the right treatment, and a stable life. That's what permanent supportive housing does — provides the help needed to keep people housed, off the streets and out of the woods. We may not spend less, but we'll reap far better results — stable lives for the people we house, freed-up time for first responders and a cleaner, safer community.
Permanent supportive housing will help us make the distinction between the afflicted and those who willfully afflict us. If we do right by the afflicted and house them, we'll further isolate any bad actors so the law can more easily deal with them.
Hundreds of people are working now to line up funding, landlords, treatment and outreach. This is work of both head and heart for sustained change. The goal is first housing by December.
— Michele Brown
President, United Way of Anchorage