An article in the Anchorage Daily News about homeless camping bans in San Diego drew many parallels to the growing homelessness issue here in Anchorage. Like San Diego, Anchorage's homeless population is growing significantly, outpacing available shelter space and access to low-income housing.
The closure of the Sullivan Arena as a "low-barrier" shelter in 2022, with no apparent plan of where people would go, has exacerbated the crisis. It is worth noting that temperatures in Anchorage will start dropping in September, adding another layer of urgency for individuals with virtually nowhere to go. We need a comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness, including increasing shelter space, expanding access to affordable housing, and providing more support services for people who are homeless.
I have been hearing about this repeatedly from constituents who are uncomfortable with seeing so many people on the side of the street in their neighborhoods and business owners in Midtown who are dealing with losing business because customers do not feel safe walking into their businesses. And from the perspective of those without an indoor place to sleep, with freezing temperatures 60 days away and more outdoor deaths than ever in Anchorage, getting a workable plan has truly reached a level of life and death.