Anchorage Assembly member calls for warming facility ahead of sub-zero weekend temps

A picture of a downtown skyline while it's snowing.
The Anchorage skyline on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

With forecasters expecting sub-zero temperatures in Anchorage this weekend, one Assembly member is asking Mayor Dave Bronson to use emergency powers to give people experiencing homelessness a place to stay warm.

Assembly member Felix Rivera made the plea during his Housing and Homelessness Committee meeting Wednesday morning.

“So I would really encourage the administration to do whatever it takes to stand up warming (centers) as soon as possible for that population,” Rivera said. “And if that requires you to declare a short-term civil emergency that’s very tailored to meeting this need, speaking for myself, one of 12, and as chair of this committee, I would ask that that happen.”

With emergency powers, Rivera said, the administration could act quickly, without going through the normal purchasing process. Beyond that, Rivera did not offer specifics on what he’d like to see from the mayor’s office.

The Assembly approved a 50-bed capacity bump to its walk-in, group shelter Tuesday. Those beds were expected to fill quickly, maxing out the city’s emergency cold weather shelter system.

Unlike shelters, warming areas are more spartan and not intended for overnight stays, but they might mean the difference between life and death.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Bronson said Rivera’s request had not been relayed to him yet and he wasn’t prepared to speak about it.

Bronson was still sour about the Assembly suspending work on his concept for a mass homeless shelter and navigation center at Tudor and Elmore roads, but optimistic about working out a solution.

“I appreciate Felix asking me to do this, and we are – I have a moral imperative not to let anyone die on the street,” Bronson said. “But I had a plan that satisfies that moral imperative and that plan was thwarted multiple times for the last two-and-a-half years. But we’ll adapt going forward, we’ll work with the Assembly going forward and we’ll get to a solution.”

Separately, the mayor’s team is working on lining up a contract for Assembly approval on Tuesday to establish a winter warming area for up to 50 people. The prospective operator is a nonprofit called Graceful Touch Transitional Services. Bronson’s chief of staff said the contract is expected to cost $226,000 to run for five months.

Correction: An earlier version of this story overstated the dollar value of the warming area contract. It’s $226,000, not $266,000.

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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