More than 50 people attended a community council meeting Thursday night expecting an update from Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson on the homeless population at the nearby Centennial Campground.
But no one from Bronson’s administration showed up.
Northeast Community Council president George Martinez said he’s frustrated.
“We got a commitment from the administration to keep us informed and to come back, and they didn’t,” he said. “So the breach of trust continues in that way.”
The makeshift homeless camp has been in place since late June. That’s when city officials abruptly began bussing and directing people toward the campground — as they cleared an illegal camp and also closed the Sullivan Arena mass shelter. More than 200 homeless people are currently using the campground.
In a letter to the community council, Bronson said no one from his administration could attend Thursday night’s meeting but provided no reason. He wrote that the city will continue waiving camping fees for Centennial, though he says the campground is not a part of Anchorage’s official homelessness response. Martinez took issue with that position.
“You know, this administration is just gaslighting the public,” Martinez said. “You don’t move people from a homeless shelter into a park and then call them campers… and think no one sees that. We know what it is.”
Among the complaints raised by residents during the meeting were questions and concerns over safety at the campground, availability of housing during the winter, impacts to businesses and children being bussed to the campgrounds. Martinez pointed residents to the mayor’s office as the best avenue for their comments and questions.
The community council passed a resolution at its meeting asking the mayor to immediately begin moving homeless people out of the Centennial Campground and into alternative housing. It’s also asking that the administration be more forthright about providing notice to community councils during emergencies.
Citing concerns over safety and the assertion from city officials that the Centennial Campground is not a homeless camp, officials with the homeless prevention response system say they won’t be connecting service providers with homeless people at the campground, effective Thursday night. That will likely mean a large decrease in food, health and other services for campers there.