Alaska Legislature

In reversal, Alaska House includes $4M for Anchorage homeless shelter in budget draft

The spending plan draft set for consideration by the Alaska House this week includes $4 million for operating an Anchorage homeless shelter, after the Finance Committee reversed its previous action in nixing the funding.

The $4 million request — supported by the Anchorage Assembly, Mayor Dave Bronson, and some Anchorage lawmakers — was initially rejected by the committee in a 6-5 vote earlier this month. Two days later, the funding was added to the budget in a 7-4 vote, after two committee members flipped their positions.

The funding, if it remains in the budget by the time it is formally adopted by the full Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, would allow a low-barrier shelter to continue operating in Anchorage year-round. Without the funding, the 200-bed shelter in the former Solid Waste Services building in Midtown Anchorage is set to shut down by the end of May.

Another 374 beds at the city’s two other emergency winter shelters are also set to close come June, leaving hundreds of homeless Alaskans with limited options aside from living outdoors.

The two lawmakers who changed their positions were Dillingham independent Bryce Edgmon and Nome Democrat Neal Foster, who represent predominantly rural districts. The two co-chair the finance committee, and are two of only three non-Republicans who are members of the House majority.

Edgmon said Wednesday that Anchorage’s homelessness crisis “has ties to rural Alaska” and that the appropriation “would lend itself to assisting … in confronting the problem.”

Bronson included the funding request in a one-page priority list disseminated to lawmakers in January. The Anchorage municipality has already allocated nearly $4 million to operating the low barrier shelter since October.


“The mayor is very appreciative of the attention the Legislature is giving to this issue that affects all of Alaska and will continue advocating for shelter space,” Bronson’s spokeswoman, Veronica Hoxie, said in a statement.

“We know we don’t have sufficient funding to run it ourselves during the summer,” said Assembly member Anna Brawley, who has been advocating for the shelter funding along with the Bronson administration.

Brawley, Bronson and Assembly Chair Chris Constant were all on a call with Anchorage lawmakers when the Finance Committee decided on Wednesday to include the funding in the budget draft they adopted later that week.

Brawley said the group had been “brainstorming a plan B” for shelter operations when they learned the funding had been added to the budget. She said the news was “really great” but she was still concerned about the remainder of the budget process, when the funding could be stripped, including through a potential veto by Dunleavy.

All but one House Finance Republican continued to oppose the funding when it was considered on Wednesday, including Rep. DeLena Johnson of Palmer; Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok; Rep. Will Stapp of Fairbanks; and Rep. Frank Tomaszewski of Fairbanks.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Julie Coulombe joined all committee Democrats and independents in support of the funding, saying “everybody in the state is affected by what’s happening in Anchorage.”

Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat who proposed the funding be added to the budget, said Monday that it was still possible that the funding could be stripped from the budget by House Republicans when the spending plan is considered by the full chamber this week.

“Ultimately it will be in the hands of Anchorage’s Republican state representatives, whether or not they want to help the municipality with $4 million of state funding for a shelter,” Josephson said on Monday.

The House is expected to consider amendments to the spending plan beginning on Tuesday.

Stanley Wright, a House Republican representing East Anchorage and a former city employee, said Monday that he was “really excited” to see the funding added to the budget.

“I hope it stays,” he said. “I think that’s something that should be bipartisan.”

“In Anchorage, we need as much help as we can possibly get,” said Wright. “I really want to help at least mitigate the homeless issue — because, you know, you’re not going to solve it.”

Brawley said she believes continued advocacy from Assembly members, legislators and the mayor will be critical in keeping the funding in the budget moving forward.

“The shelter is well-run, and people are utilizing it, and we’re also getting people out into housing,” Brawley said.

During the last two summers, Anchorage saw up to 1,000 or more homeless residents living outside. Several large encampments sprung up last year, and vulnerable homeless residents, neighbors and nearby businesses experienced significant public health and safety issues in and around the camps.

City homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson has warned that the city could see about 900 people unsheltered by June.

City officials are taking other steps to try and mitigate problems this summer. That includes a proposed measure to limit the size of homeless camps and expand the city’s power to dismantle some camps, even when no shelter is available.


Anchorage has also spent $1.5 million to move 150 clients in city winter shelters into permanent housing with supportive services. That effort, spearheaded by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, will continue over the summer to house another 150.

During a meeting last week, Meg Zaletel, executive director of the coalition and the Assembly’s vice chair, said that if state funding comes through to keep the Central Waste Station shelter open, combined with the city’s ongoing housing initiative, Anchorage could see a significant reduction in unsheltered homelessness over the summer.

“If we start with 900, and 200 can remain in shelter — we support year round operation of the (Central Waste Station) shelter — and we’ve housed 150, and we’ve committed to housing another 150 this summer, by the end of the summer, our number will have reduced to 400,” Zaletel said. “That is a substantially different feel for our community.”

Daily News reporter Sean Maguire contributed to this report from Juneau.

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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

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