Anchorage is preparing to launch multiple projects as part of a plan to halt its emergency bulk supply operations at Sullivan Arena. As a key element of this strategy, Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration is moving forward with a plan to build a 200-person homeless shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.
At this time, the estimated cost of building the shelter is $9 million, although other costs may arise. The convention will vote on a request for $8.2 million in funding from the administration later this month.
The proposed shelter is part of a plan negotiated between Bronson and the Assembly to drastically expand homeless services in the city while ending COVID-19-era emergency mass care.
While a key member of the congregation says the shelter could be an integral part of the city’s homeless service, it’s raising some neighborhood concerns about its size and location, and at least one local council passed a resolution opposing it.
The city holds two Community Listening Sessions on the Shelter project in East Anchorage, with the first event this Wednesday. It is designed to give residents an opportunity to learn about the shelter and ask city officials questions about the project, the mayor’s office said in a release. The mayor’s office did not answer a question about which officials would be present.
The city plans to build the protection and navigation center with an additional surge capacity of 130 more beds for a total of 330. It would serve people over the age of 25 affected by homelessness, mostly single males, the youngest said Update on his homelessness plans.
It would be near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore streets and would serve as a temporary housing facility where case managers would connect clients to jobs, housing, health services and public services.
The Tudor-Elmore project grew out of an earlier proposal by Bronson to build a much larger temporary accommodation for 450 people, with a capacity of up to 1,000 people, at a slightly different site in the Tudor and Elmore area. The mayor’s original proposal sparked a series of disputes between the administration and the assembly over the plan, leading to a months-long negotiation process that is still ongoing.
Finally, the assembly unanimously approved a Resolution on homelessness which, in a compromise with the mayor, outlined an agreed “exit strategy” for Sullivan Arena.
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Now the city is accelerating several projects specified in this agreement. To finish mass care at the Sullivan Arena and local hotels by June 30, people there will need to be relocated to other housing and shelters.
With more people already living in illegal camps outside, the city needs to find shelter or shelter for around 1,000 people. The protection and navigation center in East Anchorage is a crucial part of his strategy.
“Resolving homelessness is a goal we all want to achieve in Anchorage. The proposed navigation center, which the assembly’s Legislative Drafting Group and I support, will serve as an important pillar as we craft our robust plan to serve those most vulnerable in our city,” Bronson said in a written statement.
The city has selected a location for the shelter that is directly west of the Mayor’s original proposed location for the Anchorage Police Department’s evidence vehicle parking lot. Construction at the new location will be faster and cheaper because the more than 500 vehicles on the APD site do not have to be relocated.
Hopes for “a real navigation center”
Assemblyman Felix Rivera, chair of the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, said Anchorage does not have adequate response infrastructure to help the growing homeless population and to alleviate the visible signs of homelessness in the city’s streets, parks, playgrounds and neighborhoods.
“There are important pieces of infrastructure that I think are missing. And I think this navigation center is one of those pieces that, if done right, could add tremendous value to our community,” Rivera said.
Most importantly for Rivera, the project results in the creation of a “true navigation center,” he said.
“By that I mean it’s really focused on service delivery. And first and foremost, the focus of the service should be to get people to a place where they can find shelter,” he said. “Navigation centers are like mini Housing First cheerleaders. Her goal is to get people to live. And once you’re in the residence, you get all the all-round services you need to stabilize in supportive living.”
A person’s stay at a navigation center should be relatively short, from a month to two months, he said.
The Anchorage Department of Health and the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness will work together to draft “best practices for operating navigation centers,” according to the negotiating group’s update on plans.
“This work will support decisions regarding the programs and practices deployed at the Tudor Elmore Navigation Center to inform the detailed design of the physical facility and future operating costs,” the update reads.
The Coalition is the organization at the heart of the city’s efforts and helps drive the exit strategy by providing expertise, tracking data on homelessness, and bringing together private philanthropists and organizations to provide more resources in Anchorage.
The mayor’s administration presented $8.2 million in funding to the assembly for approval at its April 26 regular meeting. These applications include two new sources of funding:
• $4.9 million in general funds previously approved by the convention for the purchase of real estate for homeless services at the suggestion of former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration. These funds originally came to the city as federal funds under the CARES Act.
• $1.3 million from the Alcohol Tax Fund balance.
The Bronson administration has also requested to use $2 million the congregation had already channeled into a restricted fund with the Alaska Community Foundation, which the city set up for this purpose — to further its strategy to phase out mass including the navigation center. Also, the Assembly has already approved $800,000 for the design of the shelter, bringing the price to $9 million so far.
According to the update, this does not include any operating costs.
The city has completed its bidding process for the project and has recommended Roger Hickel Contracting, a local company that has previously worked on several city projects, to oversee the project.
request of the municipal council
Rivera said he’s concerned the city hasn’t done enough work to “move the community forward and move the congregation forward so we can all depend on the work.”
Rivera said he hopes to hear more details about the administration’s process in the coming weeks, including at the listening sessions. Among other things, the Assembly and the public need details on whether permitting procedures are being followed, such as: B. a conditional use permit, he said.
The public “wants to know that they have complete confidence that this project is being done properly, that the dollars are being spent properly. And we should be able to give that assurance to the public,” he said.
Hans Rodvik, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said by email that the listening sessions “go beyond the requirements of the Municipal Code to obtain a conditional use permit for the navigation center.
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“We are still in the early stages of this project and if we understand the concerns of the community, this plan can and should be changed to allay public concerns,” Rodvik said. “A leaflet on the proposed navigation center will be made available to the public. The public will have the opportunity to speak up and share their thoughts on the project. Various city officials will be present to answer questions.”
The mayor’s initial proposal for a much larger shelter sparked a public outcry from local residents concerned about the impact on the neighborhood, fearing that a large shelter would be difficult to manage and a stressful, suboptimal place for the homeless to seek assistance to search.
At least one local council has passed a resolution opposing the proposed Tudor-Elmore housing. Basher Community Council, which encompasses an area directly east of the shelter’s proposed location, cited a list of concerns including the shelter’s proximity to parks and concerns about the risk of fire, the lack of a nearby grocery store and the danger of pedestrian traffic in the area high-speed traffic area.
Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, representing East Anchorage, said many people he spoke to in the community would accept a smaller 150-bed accommodation with a 50-bed capacity.
That size would better fit the parameters of the assembly’s ordinance requiring homeless shelters to obtain city licenses, he said. The regulation, passed last summer, limits the size of overnight shelters to 150, although one shelter could aim for a larger deviation.
Still, some are concerned that building a “significant new shelter so close to the Gospel Rescue Mission will harm customers, especially with the number of casualties we already have on Tudor,” Dunbar said.
The first listening session will be on Wednesday April 13 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Wilda Marston Theater in the Loussac Library. A second meeting will be held on Thursday, April 28, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Loussac library meeting rooms, the mayor’s office said.