Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s plan to house people who are homeless this winter now includes using two recreational centers as emergency shelters.
Members of Bronson’s administration presented the mayor’s sheltering plan to an Assembly housing and homelessness committee Wednesday afternoon. The city estimates that roughly 350 people will need shelter this winter.
The city’s plan to house them includes using portable buildings, providing microgrants to local nonprofits and continuing sheltering efforts at the Aviator Hotel downtown. Also, the administration is planning to build a new shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.
Bronson’s administration first outlined the plan last week, but what’s different now: using the Spenard and Fairview recreation centers as shelters is no longer a last resort. Downtown Assembly member Chris Constant took issue with that at Wednesday’s meeting.
“This is the element that both shocks and moves me towards trying to find another path,” Constant said. “And that’s because it was listed as a final alternative if all other elements didn’t work, and now it’s listed as the first element.”
READ MORE: Anchorage Mayor Bronson announces plan for sheltering homeless during the winter
Last week, the Bronson administration said using the rec centers was the municipality’s “least preferred option.”
“If portable self-contained buildings do not become available through necessary code changes, these sites will be activated from October – April,” said a statement from the administration last Wednesday.
Bronson officials now say they anticipate the rec center shelters starting up by Sept. 29. Each could house up to 150 people. Alexis Johnson, Bronson’s chief of staff, said the city is looking at finding alternative facilities for children who typically use the rec centers.
“Possibly work with the surrounding schools,” Johnson said, “to take the programming that’s available at the rec centers and possibly implement them in an Anchorage School District facility, with the staff that would be used by the Parks and Rec department.”
As for the other parts of the sheltering plan, the timelines are less concrete. Deputy Chief of Staff Brice Wilbanks said the city is still finalizing it work with an unnamed community partner to get the portable buildings as a donation.
“We anticipate having about 20 portable structures, set up at one location is our aim right now,” Wilbanks said.
The city has not said where the buildings would go. Wilbanks said the administration plans to start using the portable buildings in the fall.
As for the new shelter, Bronson officials estimate it could begin housing people at a reduced capacity starting in late November, before construction wraps early next year.
Officials said they also plan on spending between $150,000 and $200,000 on the microgrants to community nonprofits and churches to shelter people during the winter.
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