Alaska Legislature

Alaska House budget crafters reject $4 million request for Anchorage homeless shelter

The House Finance Committee narrowly rejected an amendment to the budget on Monday that would have added $4 million in state spending to extend the operations of a low-barrier shelter in Anchorage through the summer months.

The amendment was proposed by Anchorage Democratic Rep. Andy Josephson, who said homelessness “is a shared problem in that many people are homeless and not directly from Anchorage.”

It failed in a 5-6 split, with only one member of the House majority joining all minority members of the committee to vote in favor of the amendment.

The funding request is supported both by the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson, who included the funding item in a one-page priority list disseminated to lawmakers in January. The Anchorage municipality has already allocated nearly $4 million to operating a low-barrier shelter in a former city Solid Waste Services building in Midtown since October.

The state funding request would enable the shelter to operate year-round. Without the funding, Assembly members have said the shelter — which can accommodate around 200 people — would close by the end of May.

“It does not mean that we will not have camping — that should be very clear,” Assembly member Anna Brawley said during a work session last week.

Bronson’s homelessness coordinator, Alexis Johnson, told Assembly members last month that the administration believes 900 people will lose their shelter beds in Anchorage and will be forced outside on June 1, when cold-weather shelters cease operations.


“This is a relatively low dollar figure when we consider how it might perhaps help connect more Alaskans to services,” said Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent who voted in favor of the amendment. “They’ll have a place to go during the daytime and hopefully get through to the services needed to help them on their way to an independent life.”

Voting against the amendment were Republicans Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok, Rep. Will Stapp of Fairbanks and Rep. DeLena Johnson of Palmer, along with Democratic Rep. Neal Foster of Nome and independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham.

Stapp, the only one of the six who explained during the Monday committee hearing his opposition to the amendment, said he didn’t support the funding because of the designation of the shelter as “low barrier,” meaning that homeless people can access it even if they are not sober.

“I don’t fundamentally believe that the state should be in the business of giving direct million-dollar grants to places that allow homeless folks to be able to use substance abuse materials,” said Stapp.

Rep. Julie Coulombe of Anchorage, the only committee Republican who voted in favor of the amendment, said Anchorage’s homelessness crisis is “a statewide issue.”

“You can’t say that Anchorage hasn’t put skin in the game. We’ve put millions of dollars toward solving this issue. We’ve gotten very little state support,” said Coulombe.

After the vote, Brawley said in a statement that she was “very disappointed” by the vote but that she had spoken with both House and Senate members about other options to include the funding in the budget.

The committee action is not the final word on the funding idea. The budget writing process is expected to continue through the end of the legislative session in May. Lawmakers could propose adding the funding to the state budget again during a House floor hearing on the bill, or once the operating budget is considered by the Senate.

Without state funding, Brawley said the municipality would be forced to close the facility or make other budget cuts.

“Our ask is that the state recognize homelessness is a statewide issue whose costs are disproportionately felt by Anchorage taxpayers and residents, and the visitor industry all summer,” said Brawley.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at