The Anchorage Assembly has approved using the Sullivan Arena — again — as an emergency homeless shelter.
The hockey arena had been used as a shelter for roughly two years before Mayor Dave Bronson closed it at the end of June. The return to using the arena as a shelter comes after more than a month of debate over how to house roughly 350 homeless people through the winter.
Whether or not the mayor will implement the winter plan is still up in the air.
The plan approved by the Assembly Monday night would put more than $2.4 million toward sheltering at the Sullivan, as well as extending services at Brother Francis Shelter, Bean’s Café and Covenant House. It also provides 85 housing units at the former Golden Lion hotel. The Assembly approved the plan in a 9-1 vote with Eagle River member Jamie Allard opposed.
Midtown Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera spoke in favor of the plan, and addressed the need to have more permanent homelessness solutions moving forward.
“If we can focus on the larger picture, on housing supports, on mental health, on substance misuse treatments, we will be able to form a path out of this permanent emergency state,” Rivera said.
Ahead of debate on the resolution, Rivera asked Bronson whether he would make a good-faith effort to implement the plan quickly.
“There’s a lot to go through here,” Bronson responded. “This is a complex plan. We have a lot of work to do and analysis with legal. So to your specific question, I simply can’t answer it in good faith tonight, thank you.”
In August, the Assembly formed a task force to create a winter sheltering plan, expressing frustration at the lack of a plan from the mayor.
The Bronson administration has since released a sheltering plan, which differed heavily from the one passed by the Assembly. At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, Assembly members will vote on a city code change that would allow for one part of the mayor’s plan, the use of portable buildings for shelter.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Felix Rivera represents Midtown Anchorage, not West Anchorage.