More than 100 people move to Sullivan Arena homeless shelter after city closes Centennial Campground

A large tan building with people around the steps
The Sullivan Arena Shelter in September 2021 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

More than 100 homeless people are staying in the Sullivan Arena shelter in Anchorage, following the closure of the Centennial Campground on Saturday. 

But not everyone has left the campground, says Anchorage homelessness coordinator Alexis Johnson.

“We know that there are still about 100 people that are still at Centennial that know that they don’t want to go to the Sullivan,” Johnson said. “And right now there’s no forcible push to say, ‘Hey, you have a better place to go.’”

Johnson said as of Monday morning, there were 103 people at the Sullivan Arena shelter.

Anchorage homeless coordinator Alexis Johnson during a special Assembly meeting on Monday. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The city announced just days before the Centennial Campground closure that it would reopen the Sullivan Arena shelter, after closing it in June. That created a tight deadline to find housing and shelter for roughly 350 people in Anchorage — and the plan is still being vetted. 

Johnson says overall, the move from Centennial to Sullivan Arena went well, with campers lined up as soon as buses arrived to transport them Saturday morning. 

“I think going from outdoor to indoor is a huge push for people, and they knew the capacity was limited,” Johnson said. “So they were actually in more of a hurry to get out and get to Sullivan and secure their spot.”

The Assembly’s emergency shelter plan includes having Sullivan Arena serve as a shelter for a maximum of 150 people and using the former Golden Lion building for housing in up to 85 rooms. 

On Monday, the Assembly voted on an ordinance that would’ve increased the capacity at Sullivan to 200 people, and added housing options at the Alex Hotel. East Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar proposed an amendment to keep the Sullivan capacity at 150, citing a lack of faith that Bronson would use the Golden Lion.

East Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar proposed keeping Sullivan Arena capacity at 150 people. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

“I think the administration will use this — these 200 beds capacity at Sullivan Arena — they will maintain that through the winter,” Dunbar said. “They will probably use the Alex Hotel, and they will not take any substantive steps to turn on the Golden Lion, which had broad Assembly support.”

The Assembly approved the resolution with Dunbar’s amendment, keeping the capacity at Sullivan to 150 people. An additional amendment from North Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant was approved that would allow for a surge capacity of 200 at the shelter, but only after the arena is at 90% capacity for five days, and after all other low-barrier shelter options in the city are full.  

Bronson officials say they’re still weighing legal options over using the Golden Lion, as well as assessing repairs needed for the building. The Assembly will vote on an ordinance that would temporarily allow the Golden Lion to operate as an emergency shelter at its next meeting on Oct. 11.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Monday, October 3, 2022
Next articleDunleavy, Tshibaka are no-shows for Kodiak candidate debates