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    Faith-based homeless shelter opposes Anchorage plan to heavily regulate its outreach

    By AlaskaWatchman.com

    Christian homeless shelters have served Anchorage’s most vulnerable residents for more than half a century. Along with provided food, shelter, job training and medical care, these missions have also provided hope and spiritual transformation for countless homeless men and women.

    Gospel Rescue Mission pic5
    The Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission has operated since 1965.

    Now the city is looking to take control of these faith-based groups with a new proposal that seeks to establish a data base to track the homeless and maintain “the appropriate level of control and authority” over the outreaches that serve them.

    Until the arrival of COVID-19 the city had never operated homeless shelters. It moved into this sphere when existing shelters were forced to reduce their capacity due to virus concerns and city mandates. Assemblyman John Weddleton, a sponsor of the ordinance, admitted that homeless shelters, for the most part, have operated well without government oversite. Nevertheless, he thinks this is the time to institute the new proposal.

    “There are shelters in town that do a wonderful job. They don’t create a big problem in the neighborhood,” he said during a three-hour June 2 townhall meeting on the proposal. “What we want to do is not make it harder for the shelter operators to do the important work they do for all of us, but to make sure we don’t have the problems that we’ve seen are possible.”

    He claimed the proposed plan is a “very gentle” licensing procedure that would avoid the very worst kinds of problems that are sometimes associated with homeless shelters.

    “Right now, the shelters are being run very well, and we’re not seeing those problems,” Weddleton admitted. “We just want to make sure, should more open up, that we don’t run into problems.”

    That’s not how Pastor John LaMantia sees it at all. Since 2014 he has served as the executive director of Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, an outreach that has served Anchorage’s homeless population since 1965.

    LaMantia expressed concern that the city could make the regulatory measures so burdensome that they could easily find ways to fine them for noncompliance, or shut them down entirely.

    “Most of the shelter providers are not in favor of this at all,” LaMantia told the Watchman. “The city’s goal is very clear – they are looking for control and authority.”

    LaMantia said he is very concerned that the city is looking to essentially govern shelters that have effectively operated without their help for nearly 60 years.

    “We have a very able board of directors,” he said. “We do not need (the city’s) governance and that is what they are trying to do.”

    The proposed ordinance would grant the municipality broad powers to track all homeless clients, regulate qualifications and background checks for all volunteers and impose fines on shelters that are not deemed in compliance. Much of the details are not yet fleshed out. The fact that the Assembly wants to develop the policy details after first passing the proposal gives LaMantia pause.

    “My overarching concern is with this control and authority,” he said. “They want to control everything that takes place.”

    If the goal is to curb drunkenness, loitering and street crimes, LaMantia said the city should enforce its existing laws rather than try and regulate established shelters that have long filled a critical service for Anchorage.

    He expressed concern that the city could make the regulatory measures so burdensome that they could easily find ways to fine shelters for noncompliance, or shut them down entirely. Ultimately, he worries that the proposed licensing mandates could be used by the city to take over shelter missions across the city.

    LaMantia said his outreach has provided upwards of $8 million dollars in services to area residents in need since 2014, and this is without taking a single dime in local, state or federal funds.

    “They are all for that, but they still want to control our operations – control and authority – that’s so troublesome to me,” he said.

    LaMantia’s concerns are not mere speculation. In 2018, the city attempted to fine the Downtown Hope Center – a battered women’s shelter – $75 for each time it refused to let a biological male who identified as a female from sleeping and showering with women. The city ultimately backed down and had to pay the faith-based shelter $100,000 in a court settlement.

    The Assembly is set to take up the proposal at its June 8 regular meeting.

    TAKING ACTION

    • Click here to read the proposed ordinance on regulating homeless shelters.
    • The Assembly will take the ordinance up as an agenda item at its June 8 meeting. The public can also testify that day. Click here for details.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Joel Davidson
    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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    13 Comments

    1. What part of the adage “if it works don’t fix it” does Mr. Weddleton not understand? If a faith based shelter, treatment center, or soup kitchen are operating with zero government funding they should be treated the same as a church and outside of land use zoning that is already in place should be left alone.

    2. “regulate qualifications…for all volunteers” Wanna bet those qualifications would include being vaxxed? This fascist assembly is so totally out of control! It drives them nuts when anyone or anything is not under their thumb.

    3. Some shelters are already wack and burdensome McKinnel house is real nice during admitting and once your excepted in you become their little toy to play with and manipulate and they tell you u cant buy food while your there you have to eat their government pre decided trash or go without no fridges to store anything anywhere communal bathrooms so they can monitor you like a child sign up the day before your meals or u dont get if u forgot oh well if u have dietary restrictions doesn’t matter or allergies or whatever be their by 8PM get out at 7am everyday even if you work and its your day off get out noone aloud to be inside unless its sleep time but come back for your meals car or not get out come back oh u missed a meal u signed up for now u get a write up for missing your crap meal that u dont really want cause u don’t even know what it is but u have to sign up on the Hope’s its edible and its not…. oh and they sit in the cafeteria wat thing the family’s eat like homeless families are zoo animals and take notes in their notepads never would I ever stay their again I’d rather die ind if u get 3 write ups your out anyway so if u miss 3 meals or anything they decide your out they give chores like clean the cafeteria even tho u cant cook or make anything u want.

    4. It isn’t ‘the city’, it is SPECIFICALLY, Democrats. The ‘non-partisan’ liberal democrats sitting on the Anchorage Assembly taking advantage of the SIEGE taking place in every avenue of life during this CCP virus motivated, election tampering fear and crisis propaganda campaign. Communists were a threat in the ’50’s, then became a product of the ‘conspiracy theorists’, and are now revealing themselves the proud Marxists they are – waving the hammer and sickle of the USSR that fell over 25 years ago.

    5. One size has never fit all..
      Leave the Church Alone.
      Do not fix what is not broken.
      The Libs & Dems are killing this state.. what is purposed is about Submission & Control.. not the decoy claim of the betterment of society.
      -God bless the Republic of this great state of Alaska!!

    6. More taxes to pay for these municipal run shelters. Once they shut them down and take over.
      Stay out of are life’s

    7. I would love to see the government get out of the homeless business. Mostly for liability purposes which we have to pay lawsuits. If the homeless are committing a crime arrest or charge them, otherwise let the charities deal with helping and maybe have the city provide grants.

    8. Why not just enforce vagrancy laws, camping in prohibited area, public drunkenness, etc., and just leave the shelters alone? Anytime these guys open their mouths, someone is about to lose a freedom.

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