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The Anchorage Assembly will consider an emergency ordinance requiring all homeless residents to sleep in designated overnight shelters. The topic will be addressed at the April 14 Assembly meeting in response to community concerns that homeless camps may spread COVID-19.

The proposed ordinance notes that constituents have contacted Assembly members to report encampments of homeless individuals “with tents erected wall to wall growing by the day.”

The ordinance says Anchorage contains an estimated 1,100 unsheltered homeless people – “a vulnerable population that tends to suffer from weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions due to the harsh nature of street life.”

Currently, the homeless are exempted from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s hunker down order mandating that residents stay home as much as possible during the health pandemic. If the Assembly passes its emergency measure, any overnight campsite in the city would be prohibited for 60 days.

First time offenders would receive a warning with an order to relocate to a designated temporary shelter by 8 p.m. the following day. Those continuing to camp for a second consecutive night would be found in violation unless there were no available shelter beds in town.

Violators could be charged with a class B misdemeanor. If the Assembly approves the measure, as written, it will go into effect at 5 p.m. on April 16.

Due to COVID-19 concerns the Anchorage Assembly has issued guidelines on how to comment on proposed ordinances. Click here to learn more.

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Anchorage considers mandating that homeless seek shelter

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.