Anchorage’s homeless problem has exploded in the last five years. Here are the numbers as compiled by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness.
- 177 camps noticed in 2016
- 414 camps noticed in 2017
- 444 camps noticed in 2018
- 1,111 camps noticed in 2019
- 1,058 camps noticed in 2020
In 2018, the Committee on Homelessness and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz planned $2 million municipal dollars for cleaning up the homeless camps.
Jump forward to 2020. This same mayor and Assembly now jubilantly plot to use CARES Act Funds (money they termed “a gift from heaven”) and intend to throw approximately $94.5 million in taxpayer money to address homelessness by purchasing four properties and setting up homeless shelters and services in Anchorage neighborhoods.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- The municipality claims it will need $7 a year from the recently passed alcohol sales tax, but $12.5 million is more realistic. And remember, voters were told the alcohol tax was to be used for alcohol abuse and domestic violence problems.
- Another $15 million will be needed from the Municipal Light & Power sale to Chugach Electric.
- $7 million will be taken from federal CARES Act Funds.
- $20 million will be needed to upgrade and remodel these old buildings, which need considerable renovation.
- Then there’s another $43 million coming from nonprofits such as Rasmuson Foundation.
- All totaled, the price tag comes to $94.5 million.
The CARES Act is supposed to benefit all citizens and small businesses affected by COVID, yet this plan benefits less than one tenth of 1% of the population.
With the current number of homeless in Anchorage, this is comparable to giving around $100,000 to each homeless person. This is a budgetary increase by a factor of 50. Why such a dramatic increase for a problem they claimed they could have solved with $2 million back in 2018?
The CARES Act is supposed to benefit all citizens and small businesses affected by COVID-19, yet this plan benefits less than one tenth of 1% of the population.
Five years ago, when Mayor Berkowitz was elected, Anchorage was a completely different town. The mayor and his Assembly have spent the last five years “working” on this problem; their proposed solutions and policies have done nothing but increase crime, homeless numbers and taxpayer costs. In the current fiscal environment taxpayers cannot afford these expenditures. The Assembly wants to spend CARES Act Funds on a homeless initiative rather than use it for its intended purpose – to provide relief to laid off workers and small businesses affected by COVID-19.
Your hard-earned dollars continue going towards a repeat of failed municipal policies.
The Assembly is not being a good steward of these funds. This is your money, yet the Assembly plans on misappropriating it.
We had a homeless crisis prior to COVID-19. With the pandemic’s arrival, the homeless have received better shelters, better food, laundry services and free rein to walk the community and commit crime. Yet nothing has been fixed; your hard-earned dollars continue going towards a repeat of failed municipal policies.
In 2018 the Assembly Committee on Homelessness proposed a resolution that read: “Whereas, the current Administration has made strides in planning for and developing SCATTERED SITE PLACEMENTS THROUGHOUT THE ANCHORAGE BOWL for housing vulnerable persons and providing other core services, a trend that must be continued; now, therefore, the Anchorage Assembly resolves and declares it a public policy of the Municipality to, when it has the opportunity to do so, locate or recommend sites dispersed throughout all areas of the Anchorage Bowl….” Submitted by: Chair Felix Rivera, Assemblywoman LaFrance.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
This was put fourth two years before COVID-19 ever existed. Now that the Assembly has money set aside to address COVID, they want to use the money to enact a plan hatched in 2018.
Over the past week, I have listened to the public, and heard from all walks of life. What is our plan? It’s time to enforce our laws and hold people accountable. We need to decide as a community how to best to address the homeless issue.
After listening to testimony, and asking questions, I have a grasp on what the public desires – that is communication, representation, transparency and engagement in their ideas.
The writer is an Anchorage Assemblywoman who represents the Chugiak-Eagle River area.
The views expressed here to not necessarily represent those of the Alaska Watchman.