Anchorage officials and various private organizations have partnered to put $13 million toward a multi-tiered approach to reduce homelessness in the state’s largest city.
The money will go toward the operation of four new projects in the city: the proposed navigation center and shelter in East Anchorage, plus a substance misuse clinic, a workforce and supportive housing facility and a complex care facility. The goal is to use the four facilities to serve the more than 700 people who have been using the Sullivan Arena as a mass shelter for more than two years, along with local hotels. The city plans to close the Sullivan shelter before July.
Midtown Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera laid out the projects at a press conference Monday, describing them as planks of a larger structure.
“Behind each of these planks are human beings with specific needs and wants,” Rivera said. “Behind each of these planks is an intention to help meet the needs of those who have, for one reason or another, found themselves on the streets or in our parks and trails. Behind each of these planks is a commitment that as a community that we will leave no one behind.”
Partnering organizations include Native corporations Calista, Chugach Alaska and Doyon Limited as well as Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Weidner Apartment Homes, Providence, the Alaska Mental Health Trust and the Rasmuson Foundation.
Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of Rasmuson, says she thinks the investment from private partners in the city’s homelessness solution could draw up support from the public.
“You have to have some faith if you invest money that it’ll have results, and I think that’s what’s missing, is that the public hasn’t been convinced that if they spend money on this it’s going to make a difference,” Kaplan said. “And that’s why we’re here today because we want to show that it is making a difference.”
The partnering organizations are putting $7 million toward the programs, with the rest covered by the city.
That money is separate from the roughly $6.2 million the Assembly could vote on Tuesday night to build the navigation center and shelter on Tudor and Elmore. The shelter would house up to 330 people. Rivera says that vote might get moved to a special meeting because the assembly agenda is heavy for that meeting.
Mayor Dave Bronson says the navigation center is one part of the process to address homelessness. He likened it to an emergency room in a hospital.
“Because that’s where everyone comes in an emergency,” Bronson said. “They’re treated, and then they’re sent to whatever… and that’s what all of this is, one big hospital that we’re building to treat homelessness. The nav center is simply the ER.”
Setup for the other three facilities is ongoing. The complex care facility should be open in June, while renovations are underway at the substance misuse clinic. The workforce facility building is in the process of being purchased.