Anchorage Assembly takes no action on Mayor Bronson’s request to expand Sullivan shelter capacity

A red SUV sits parked in front of a tan sports arena with boarded windows.
The Sullivan Arena in Anchorage serves as the city’s low-barrier emergency winter shelter. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday night declined to take up Mayor Dave Bronson’s proposal to increase capacity at the Sullivan Arena homeless shelter. 

The request comes as cold weather shelter capacity is maxed out across the city. All 200 beds at the Sullivan Arena are full. Bronson’s resolution would expand capacity at the shelter by 160 — to 360 beds. 

Shawn Hays said she was disappointed Tuesday that the Assembly did not take up Bronson’s proposal at its meeting. Hays founded Henning Inc. which operates the Sullivan Arena shelter. 

“This is really time sensitive,” Hays said. “We can’t wait a few more weeks. We need to act now.”

Bronson just announced his proposal Monday afternoon — too late to be included as part of the Assembly’s Tuesday agenda. Assembly members could have included the resolution in the agenda, but none of the 11 in attendance opted to put it to a vote. Member Jamie Allard of Eagle River was not present at the time the resolution was brought up, arriving later in the evening.

Hays said, in addition to the 200 people staying at the Sullivan shelter, there are roughly 160 people spilling over into a warming space inside the arena. The area is open 24 hours, but there are no cots there.

“And because of the city code, they evidently can’t sleep in there,” Hays said. “So we have folks that are staying up all night, and not provided a meal.”

RELATED: Anchorage’s largest shelter is at capacity. Mayor Bronson wants to add 160 more beds.

Officials with the mayor’s office say they will resubmit the resolution to be included in the agenda for the Assembly’s Dec. 20 meeting. Bronson criticized the Assembly in a statement Tuesday night.

“Tonight, the Assembly chose to keep nearly 160 people sleeping on the cold, concrete floor of the Sullivan Arena,” he said. “This decision is immoral and wrong.”

Assembly members did not discuss Tuesday night why they didn’t bring up the resolution. But in an earlier interview, Assembly member Felix Rivera said Bronson’s proposal came as an “11th hour surprise” and did not address numerous questions, including funding and what other shelter locations were considered.

“The last thing that I want us to do as a policy of this city is to continue to burden one neighborhood with so much of our population experiencing homelessness and so much of the issues that surround that,” Rivera said.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org

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