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.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
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.