Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration has seen a half dozen or so resignations or firings over the previous a number of weeks amongst officers engaged on town’s response to homelessness.
That comes at a time when temperatures have dropped beneath zero levels in some elements of city and advocates have raised issues about overcrowding within the metropolis’s largest shelter on the Sullivan Enviornment.
Alaska Public Media’s Lex Treinen has been following town’s latest efforts on homelessness.
Pay attention right here:
This transcript has been edited for readability and extra data has been added.
Casey Grove: Remind us the place we’re at with town’s response to homelessness proper now?
Lex Treinen: Town has a giant housing scarcity proper now, and throughout the pandemic, quite a lot of vitality has been targeted on ensuring folks have a roof over their heads. The Sullivan Enviornment, the large emergency shelter in Midtown has been sleeping a whole bunch of individuals every night time because the pandemic started. That’s nonetheless form of the middle of town’s efforts proper now, at the same time as it really works on a plan to maneuver folks out of the shelter.
CG: How have issues been going on the Sullivan? Have there been any massive adjustments underneath the brand new operator?
LT: From what I can inform, not one of the adjustments have been big. Normally folks say there’s much less of a militaristic really feel underneath the brand new operator, that’s the non-public firm 99 Plus 1. Workers there say they’re going for a extra humane method and treating folks like adults.
Not everybody thinks that’s factor, I’ve heard complaints from shoppers who say they really feel much less safe due to lax guidelines and fewer safety guards.
But it surely’s been actually exhausting to get details about what is occurring. A part of that’s the sheer variety of folks engaged on homelessness leaving, which has disrupted the conventional circulation of knowledge.
There are additionally coverage adjustments which have made getting data tougher. Reporters aren’t allowed to speak to shoppers contained in the shelter any extra. It’s been more durable to rearrange excursions of the world, and managers have been banned from talking to reporters with out permission.
CG: Ought to we be involved in regards to the circumstances within the Sullivan?
I’ve been capable of speak to a couple officers and company of the shelter, and so they say whereas issues aren’t nice, they’re ample. Latest chilly climate has pushed the shelter to over capability, so the sheer variety of folks in there’s a problem. A pair days within the final week there have been over 500 folks sleeping there, and the shelter was arrange for a most of 420. They’re not turning folks away although, particularly on this chilly climate.
The operator stated it’s hiring extra employees, and dealing on tightening employees coaching necessities. They’re additionally making an attempt to get the bathrooms operational once more — the complete inhabitants there was counting on portapotties for a few months now. Shoppers say it hasn’t been nice, as you possibly can think about.
There are some issues occurring outdoors the shelter which have raised some eyebrows.
CG: Like what? What do you imply?
Simply yesterday staff arrange a sequence hyperlink fence round a part of the perimeter of the Sullivan. Shelter operators advised me they weren’t advised that it was going up, although a metropolis spokesperson stated the operator was advised. A spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that shoppers and neighbors requested the fence for safety.
There was additionally a warming tent that lastly went up earlier this week, however to this point it doesn’t have a heater or a ground. An official stated it ought to be prepared to make use of by Friday in order that individuals who are available in after curfew or those that don’t need to be within the Sullivan have a spot to go. Some sources advised me the tent was imagined to go up a month in the past, and it’s not clear why there was such a giant delay.
The Sullivan has nonetheless been letting folks inside, though they’re already over capability. However advocates advised me they’re fearful that campers would possibly keep outdoors in the event that they don’t know they’re allowed into the constructing after curfew. A spokesperson stated that its working with suppliers to let homeless folks know that they’re welcome within the Sullivan.
CG: Who’s imagined to be in command of this? It looks like there’s a communication breakdown occurring within the metropolis?
I feel the latest employees losses are actually a giant piece of this story. There’s been a couple of half dozen metropolis officers concerned with homelessnes who’ve been fired or stepped down recently. A number of advised me they left after elevating issues about what’s occurring with homelessness. All of the job vacancies make it actually exhausting to know the place to direct questions.
Yesterday, we discovered of a brand new rent who’s set to take cost of town’s response to homelessness, so hopefully that can clear up a number of the communication points.
There’s additionally nonetheless a working group made up of Meeting members and administration officers figuring out a method to transfer folks out of the Sullivan into smaller shelters, however the latest resignations have slowed these talks down. Meeting members on the group say they’re nonetheless making progress, however in addition they need to rebuild belief with the brand new members. All that simply slows down town’s progress in direction of its aim of getting folks out of shelters and into housing.
CG: Who’s the brand new rent?
LT: His identify is Dave D’amato. He’s labored at a couple of housing nonprofits over the previous decade, like United Approach and the Anchorage Coalition to Finish Homelessness. Robert McNeily, a spokesperson for the well being division, stated D’Amato will lead a brand new division targeted on housing and homelessness that can be created subsequent yr.
Just a few folks in that nonprofit world stated they’ve issues about D’amato’s views on homelessness. D’amato and town declined an interview request, however he testified to the Meeting final yr in opposition to a plan that’s actually much like one which the administration and the Meeting have tentatively agreed to. That plan is to maneuver folks out of the Sullivan Enviornment into smaller shelters dispersed round city. To this point Meeting members engaged on that plan say they’re withholding judgement about D’amato, however I feel it’s one thing to look at within the coming weeks.