Anchorage Mayor Bronson floats plan to buy one-way plane tickets for homeless residents

a man in a suit with a red tie speaks at a podium
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson speaks at a press conference on Tuesday. (Dev Hardikar/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson says he doesn’t foresee the Sullivan Arena becoming a mass homeless shelter again this winter. Instead, he says his administration is working on a proposal to pay for one-way plane tickets to send homeless people to their loved ones or move to warmer locations. 

Bronson announced the proposal in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, and discussed it at a press conference Tuesday morning.

“It’s not difficult to administer,” Bronson said. “Someone says, ‘I want to go to Los Angeles or San Diego or Seattle or Kansas.’ It’s not our business. My job is to make sure they don’t die on Anchorage streets.”

Bronson said the plan would work similarly to efforts made by the Salvation Army last year, getting tickets for homeless campers who were staying at Centennial Park campground. The Bronson administration moved many homeless people there after shuttering the Sullivan Arena shelter that summer. 

City officials estimate there are currently roughly 750 homeless people in Anchorage. 

The mayor said the city set a record for outdoor deaths among homeless people last winter, and he’s concerned it’ll be worse this year, especially without a mass shelter.

“This winter we’re looking at possibly even doubling that,” Bronson said. “So I have a moral imperative here, and that’s to save lives. And if that means giving them a few hundred dollars for an airline ticket to go where they want to go, I’m going to do that.”

Other cities across the country have opted to fly homeless residents elsewhere, with varying degrees of success. While some have successfully been reunited with families, others have ended up on the streets of a new city.

Assembly Chair Chris Constant said in an interview Wednesday that the Assembly hasn’t been briefed on the mayor’s plan. He said he has questions, including how much it would cost. He also said a majority of homeless people in Anchorage are from Anchorage. 

“I just don’t think there are that many people who are from far away places, that we would be returning them home,” Constant said. “And so, practically speaking, it raises so many questions.”

Bronson said he doesn’t have a funding source for the proposal yet. 

Constant and Bronson both agreed that Anchorage has had little help from the state to address its growing homelessness crisis, but they will continue to seek funding from the legislature and governor. While Anchorage has 40 percent of the state’s population, it also has roughly two-thirds of the state’s homeless population.

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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