Anchorage Mayor Bronson announces plan for sheltering homeless during the winter

tents in the rain
Salavation Army provided tarps for those living at Centennial Park to provide shelter from the persistent rainfall on Aug. 19, 2022. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Since Mayor Dave Bronson shuttered the Sullivan Arena mass shelter at the end of June, a big question has lingered: Where will homeless residents go in the winter? 

For now, many have turned to the Centennial Park campground, which became a makeshift homeless camp after the mayor began waiving camping fees and bussed individuals to the site this summer. 

Frustrated Assembly members moved to create a community task force last month to come up with a winter sheltering plan — in the absence of one from Bronson. 

But now, Bronson’s team says it has a path forward. After saying they’d have a plan by the end of August, Bronson officials released their written, four-tiered plan on Wednesday night. It includes using portable buildings to house people. 

Midtown Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera — who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness — said he’s relieved to have the proposal.

“We are primed and ready to have conversations with the administration about their ideas,” Rivera said. “We were just waiting for them to come to us with those ideas. So now that they have, I’m hoping to work in a very collaborative manner with them.”

In a news release, Bronson officials said they consulted with Rivera before releasing their plan, though Rivera says that didn’t happen.

A diagram showing what the Bronson administrations proposed “portable, self-contained buildings” would look like. They’ll be 900-1,000 square feet. (Municipality of Anchorage)

The plan describes a four-pronged approach to sheltering. 

It’ll start with using up to 20 of what it describes as “portable, self-contained buildings.”

Officials say each building could house between 10 and 12 people. The plan does not say where the buildings would go. The administration said it’s getting the buildings for free from a community partner.

In an email response to questions, Bronson officials didn’t specify who the community partner is, though Rivera speculated they could be coming from faith-based nonprofit Revive Alaska. The group had proposed a housing complex in South Anchorage, using temporary structures they’d obtained from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“That apparently fell through due to community opposition,” Rivera said. “So my speculation is that Revive will turn those portable buildings over to the administration for use as emergency shelter.”

Other parts of the plan include providing grants to community nonprofits and churches to house people, as well as extending operations at the non-congregate shelter at the Aviator Hotel downtown to the end of the year. Bronson officials say they anticipate the city’s new shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage will be able to start housing people on Nov. 21 before it’s fully constructed in February. 

Another part of the plan includes using the Spenard and Fairview recreation centers as shelters, though officials with the mayor’s office say that plan is an emergency option if the portable buildings plan falls through.

Rivera agreed that using the rec centers should be a last resort, and said he’s hopeful that the mayor will continue working with the emergency shelter task force. 

“There might be some ideas in the administration’s plan that don’t work, or that won’t pass muster. And that’s okay,” Rivera said. “We have a task force that can help fill those gaps. And so, in the end, I feel confident, if we can work together, that we can come up with solutions.”

Bronson officials anticipate that most of the sheltering options can become available in October. The next step is a proposed code change to allow for the portable buildings, which the administration says it will bring forward during the Assembly’s next meeting on Sept. 13. 

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Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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