New temporary homeless shelter in Anchorage to open by Nov. 1

A picture of a beige building
The Municipality of Anchorage’s Solid Waste Services former administration building is located on 56th Avenue, pictured here on Sept. 20, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly on Thursday approved the opening of a new, temporary homeless shelter for the winter.

Alexis Johnson, the city’s homelessness coordinator, said the shelter is expected to open by Nov. 1. 

The shelter will be housed in a former garbage utility administration building in the Midtown area, and will have capacity for up to 150 people in a large vehicle storage bay. Beds in the walk-in shelter are expected to be used only if the 372 beds reserved at the Aviator and Alex hotels are full. Those rooms are supposed to open up on Monday. 

Thursday’s action resolves the last major piece of the city’s winter shelter plan.

“This is going to be the first time in years that we haven’t had a mass shelter opened up in the winter,” said Felix Rivera, chair of the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, in a congratulatory, but tempered tone. 

The mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, which opened at the start of the pandemic, closed this spring.

Rivera said local data show people have better results when they have a more private space like a hotel room, compared to a shared space. 

Rivera said it will be a markedly better shelter system than in past winters because of operational and oversight changes intended to better guide shelter users to stability.

“This is the first time we’re gonna be implementing a Housing First paradigm for how winter shelter will be run, instead of running winter shelter like a warehouse,” Rivera said. “That means that within seven days of you walking into the door, you’re going to get on the coordinated entry list and move on to your path toward housing.” 

The Assembly approved a contract for up to $2.1 million to Henning Inc. to run the shelter through April 30. It also approved a contract for up to $433,000 to provide meals at the shelter with a business called ESS.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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