I feel the current push for shelter licensing is an unusual solution to satisfy the expressed goal of this Assembly to “never again experience” the problems caused by one shelter that posed a public nuisance.

The ordinance states that they wish to establish minimum standards of care and operations. These standards deviate from anything that could be construed as minimal. They wish to prevent the re-occurrence of an outside public nuisance by controlling how providers meet needs within their walls.

How will my doing a background check on the person making our breakfast at the Rescue Mission eliminate loitering? However, ensuring that he or she is not subject to a barrier crime imposition would probably eliminate breakfast.

…let us continue to serve our neighbors without this burdensome imposition.

The Assembly says they want to exert control and authority and allow shelters to operate with as much autonomy as they think is reasonable, that they can impose more rules as they see fit, that we would have to live with something they will finish writing after the vote to approve it. They seem to be trying to write themselves a blank check.

I propose they scrap this ordinance as the answer to a single problem. They should narrow their focus to the problem they identified. Likely, it would not involve standing up a new department and turning good shelters upside down.

For precedent allow me to refer to a publication by the United Conference of Mayors 2006 citing an Anchorage mayor who had a brilliant strategy for dealing with abandoned properties that were crime and vagrant magnets and were destroying neighboring property values.

Mark Begich had a stroke of genius that became a win-win on every imaginable level. The city was not addressing nuisance properties due to cost. He secured Community Development Block Grants to cover the cost. He even got the National Guard to do the actual demolition to reduce cost while giving them training experience they needed in demolitions. National Guard, Operation Take Back, got rid of the infamous Pink Hotel and logged training hours for it. The program was so successful derelict property owners began paying up.

At no time did Begich suggest that the way to deal with the problem on one property was to impose a whole new set of laws on the other property owners in the neighborhood. He did not suggest changes that would affect who was allowed to come and go on their good properties, what insurance they purchased or require them to have background checks.

If our assembly has concern for a potential public nuisance, they should take a page out of Begich’s book of targeted, inspired, and economical lawmaking.

It is my hope that we will get past the conversation about licensing and the Assembly will let us continue to serve our neighbors without this burdensome imposition.

The views expressed here are those of the author.


  • 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.

Shelter director: Anchorage plan to control homeless shelters will turn outreaches ‘upside down’

Pastor John LaMantia
Pastor John LaMantia is the director of the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission.


  • Timothy Colbath says:

    Anchorage requires licenses for dog kennels and animal rescue groups – but licensing “homeless shelters” is somehow wrong???

    • Kathleen Lynn LaMantia says:

      Shelters already have a business license and licensing for targeted areas. Yes, we license daycares and extended care and places where people and animals could not speak up for themselves if there is abuse. That is not true of every shelter. This plan is overkill and will actually take opportunities away from from the people served. They are requiring a fingerprint background check for volunteers who come help us make lunches to hand out to poor working families. Too much.

    • Elizabeth Henry says:

      It is another layer of costly regulation that is not needed and would even be detrimental.

  • Neil A DeWitt says:

    This is another hair brained half thought through idea that will cost more money and problems you haven’t even started to think of. Back ground check before moving in? How long will that take? Anchorage instead of less people on the street will see nothing but hundreds awaiting to get into shelter as they freeze on the streets unfeed, no warmth or shelter. If I ran the churches that donate I’d stop. Anchorage wants the responsibility let them figure it out. If people start firing from exposure I guess Mark Begich can be prosecuted for this decision.

    • Kathleen Lynn LaMantia says:

      John used Begich as an example of when there was a particular public nuisance problem during his administration and he only dealt with that specific problem and did not create more government to do it. He knocked down the derelict houses that were issues. He did not knock down houses that were not problems. John was saying if there was a problem with 3rd avenue being a public nuisance then deal with litter and illegal trespass don’t create a system to make it hard on other shelters that are not a problem.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Maybe you should go back to your own dog kennel.
    Please, leave these wonderful people along, that run these programs

    • John J. Otness says:

      Well what if this is a front for human trafficking ? will you be so smug then.

      • Elizabeth Henry says:

        What smugness? So if one disagrees with you they are ‘smug’’? Is that one a tactic you use for shutting people down? There was no smugness. And the Gospel Rescue Mission is open to anyone that want sot walk through the doors and there is no trafficking going on there.

  • BackcountryBoy says:

    Can someone fill me in on what the author is referring to with the statement “the problems caused by one shelter that posed a public nuisance”?

    • Kathleen Lynn LaMantia says:

      The Assembly said the reason they wanted to license all shelters, current and future is because the area around the shelters downtown on 3rd avenue we so problematic for their neighborhood due to loitering, litter, petty crime, camping. The shelters themselves we doing what they do on the inside but people were drawn to that area and their behavior was negatively impacting the area. Some of that was beyond the shelter’s control. They have no say about what people do who are not on their property. John’s point was that if you have a public nuisance in a specific area deal with that area. The ordinance for licensing will not address it. The ordinance is asking for fingerprint checks for volunteers. How would that have solved the nuisance problem. The ordinance wants the shelters not to allow people who work there who have a criminal past but for whom a job is essential as part of their recovery work program. How would that have solved a nuisance problem? What the ordinance dies say is that the city commits to handling the enforcement issues BUT only as they have resources so you are back with the original problem. We need a targeted solution to vagrancy and crime and just let the shelters be the shelters. The Assembly admitted this problem no longer exists and did not exist outside of any other shelter yet they are wanting to create a new department to address it. The head of the Health Dept has cautioned them.

    • Sean P. Ryan says:

      While others have replied to you, here’s another take. Last summer, I was present during most of the 20+ hours of testimony on AO 2020-58 and AO 2020-66. These two ordinances sought to expand Anchorage’s low-barrier shelter options. It was the result of behind-the-scenes discussions in the wake of two events in 2019, Mayor Berkowitz’s emergency declaration in response to the Boise v. Martin decision, and the establishment of an organized camp by community activists, which operated mostly at the eastern edge of Valley of the Moon Park.

      As for the testimony on the ordinances itself, the Assembly gave short shrift to a great many community members while at the same time giving lots of time and attention to current and former officeholders, such as Larry Baker, Bill Evans and Chris Tuck. It was Evans who suggested the concept of shelter licensing during his testimony. This occurred during the same time that several people testified on first-hand experience with the long-term pattern of lawlessness in the vicinity of Bean’s Cafe and Brother Francis Shelter. I seem to remember one person specifically mentioning that those facilities felt no obligation to police anything occurring outside their walls.

      When I left the Assembly meeting the night Evans testified, he and Christopher Constant were out in the lobby discussing it at length. So it was obvious from that point (late July 2020) we would be seeing this introduced at some point. I only knew anything more during a Zoom meeting with an Assembly member about 2-3 months ago discussing the draft ordinance.

      With respect to facilities such as AGRM and DHC where diligence and accountability are already an important part of their operations, this is a solution in search of a problem. I fear those entities which have been the problem all along will somehow come out of this smelling like a rose. Notice how the narrative of damaged or stolen property at the Sullivan Arena has been framed to avoid blaming either of the entities who are ultimately responsible here, Bean’s and SMG.

  • Ralph says:

    …let us continue to serve our neighbors without this burdensome imposition (Exactly)
    -Do not fix what is not broken.
    -All this will do is stifle their ability to do what they are already successful at.

  • Dee Cee says:

    Backcountry Boy: yes, I can respond. Chronic inebriates in the vicinity of the Brother Francis Shelter set up camps in dozens of private business properties in the Ship Creek through 5th avenue area. The issue came to a head last year when Mayor Berkowitz attempted to fine private businesses for putting up fences and barriers (against code) to stop hoards of drug addicted, violent men from squatting on their private property. It was a bad look for the Mayor, who had a lot of false “solutions” to homelessness, and under whose watch encampments proliferated thru town. Our newly elected Mayor has directly addressed the concern w a specific demographic of homeless delinquent individuals who continually break the law and cause a public nuisance.

    The assembly’s effort here is meant to undermine the stated goal of dealing with this specific demographic of law-breaking, drug addicted, chronic homeless population, and throw a net of “control and authority” over all shelters of all kinds. What threat is a battered women’s shelter to a community? They don’t need the assembly or health department’s input. Its specifically that issue, that gave the assembly the opening to empower themselves with new control over all people in crisis. The delinquency issue downtown was the red herring that gave them this new opportunity to usurp the mayors power.

    • Elizabeth Henry says:

      Exactly! Add also those two services do receive public money’s whereas other shelters that will be grievously affected, do not.

  • Donald McCullough says:

    “Let it Be, Let it Be; singing words of Wisdom, Let it Be. Our volunteer kitchen in the social hall of our church was forced to close because of regulations! Folks still kept coming for bagged lunches contributed by our parishioners. Regulate that!

  • John J. Otness says:

    Homeless shelters when the explosion truly is the admittance that Fauci murdered thousands in nursing homes and around the nation and that his vaccine to murder millions is still being pushed by our so called Governor and many in this evil government. very disappointing on the journalism when kids are beckoned with bribes and coercion to bite a poison apple and take a jab from an experimental shot developed by genocidal maniacs…. The watchman must sound the alarm or the blood of the innocent is on his hands…… I have not forgotten.

  • John J. Otness says:

    dont interfere in the building of a socialist shithole is the message here…

  • John J. Otness says: