Grassroots efforts and aid groups have stepped in to fill gaps in services at the East Anchorage campground, but safety concerns and confusion over who’s in charge mean there often isn’t a clear path to help.
Service providers say hundreds more could need help this winter, and they — along with advocates and city officials — are all rushing to come up with quick solutions before cold weather hits.
Shelters and housing programs are largely full, with waitlists — and for the first time in years, there is no walk-in shelter available.
Some unsheltered people living at the campground were shaken by the exchange of gunfire that left one police officer and a suspect seriously injured. A few campers witnessed the entire incident. For many others at the encampment, life continues on as usual.
A project to build a 150-person shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage is currently estimated to be finished at the end of January, according to officials in Mayor Bronson’s administration.
It was the fifth bear killed recently by wildlife officials at Centennial Park Campground.
City officials, service providers and advocacy groups generally agree that the campground will remain the status quo until elected officials find more permanent housing and shelter options.
A man involved in a fight at Centennial Park was hit with a stun gun multiple times before being restrained, police said.
Homeless advocates, residents and others spoke of abysmal conditions at the park during an emergency Northeast Community Council meeting. Many are calling on the Bronson administration for answers about the camp’s future and the city’s long-term plans for addressing homelessness.
Assembly leaders say they’ve received little or no information from Bronson officials about what comes next for the unsheltered residents at Centennial Campground and for others who are living unsheltered in Anchorage.
After the recent closure of the city’s emergency mass shelter, Anchorage Downtown Partnership employees are finding more people sleeping outdoors.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration will ask the Assembly to extend the city’s 14-day limit on camping so homeless residents can continue staying at Centennial Campground.
In the absence of clear plans or services, an improvised order has begun to coalesce at the East Anchorage campsite.
Officials had already warned that areas near Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and Chugach State Park are heavily trafficked by bears.
More than 150 people are staying at the Centennial Campground, an influx service providers say nobody is ready for.
“I’m angry,” whispered one of the shelter’s residents. “I’m angry about this situation.”
With Thursday’s deadline looming, major questions are unresolved about handling a large number of homeless residents without the emergency shelter.
Many of the new arrivals from Sullivan Arena are moving outside with only the bare minimum for gear. The handful of Parks and Recreation workers running the campground and the park’s single security guard are suddenly tasked with figuring out how to keep the transformed campground operating safely.
With the Sullivan Arena mass shelter set to close for good Thursday, other indoor shelter sites full and the administration of Mayor Bronson continuing to clear illegal encampments, attention is shifting to a Northeast Anchorage campground that the city has suddenly repurposed as a place for people without shelter.
The city gave little notice of the decision, prompting pushback from community leaders. Questions about Anchorage’s shelter capacity and ongoing efforts to clear encampments continue to swirl ahead of the shutdown of the Sullivan Arena mass shelter.
The encampment at Davis Park is a window into the lives of people living unsheltered at this moment in Anchorage. It’s also an illustration of the challenges the city faces in attempting to clear camps, especially at a time when alternatives are full or limited.
The pair facilitating negotiations between Mayor Bronson’s administration and the Anchorage Assembly said they had struggled with a lack of transparency, candor, accurate data and credible information in recent months.
The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness said privately run shelters in the city are largely full, save a few dozen beds in one “high barrier” shelter.
The city cited the “significantly diminished impact” of COVID-19, lack of current emergency declarations and a cutoff date for federal funding looming as reasons to close the shelter at the end of the month.
Community groups and Assembly members say they received no advance notice of a key permitting meeting for a proposed shelter in East Anchorage.