City moves to make emergency shelter space permanent

Anchorage officials are hoping to keep some emergency homeless shelters open longer, past the winter months and into the summer.

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The change affects about a hundred beds that are currently part of the city’s cold-weather shelter plan, and would normally disappear during the warmer months. Half the beds are in the Downtown Soup Kitchen, the other half in Bean’s Cafe.

In a memorandum introduced this week to the Anchorage Assembly from city Homeless Services Coordinator Nancy Burke, the measure’s intent is laid out as keeping vulnerable residents close to social and medical services clustered around facilities downtown.

According to Burke, when people disperse from the shelters in the summer, it causes an up-tick in unlawful camping, as well as health and safety concerns. Over the past year that included a fatal strain of Strep and high rates of tuberculosis among homeless people in Anchorage.

The effort fits with an expanding strategy by the Berkowitz administration to confront homelessness by pushing for closer coordination among municipal and charity organizations, as well as consolidating more services around downtown. There have also been intensified efforts over the last year to evict people from outdoor camps across the city’s greenbelt.

The ordinance will be open for public comment in the weeks ahead.

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Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska. @ZachHughesAK About Zachariah