A letter signed by the directors of five faith-based homeless shelters in Anchorage was sent to the members of the Anchorage Assembly asking that they reconsider a plan to impose burdensome regulations on their operations.
Co-signed by the top leaders of Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, The Salvation Army (Alaska Division), Covenant House, Bean’s Café and Downtown Hope Center, the letter addresses a proposed Assembly ordinance that seeks to stringently regulate faith-based shelters, requiring strict licensing mandates in order for them to continue serving Anchorage’s most vulnerable population. The measure was discussed at the June 8 Assembly meeting, but a final vote was postponed until at least the June 22 meeting.
…we will be honored to work with you to set standards and best practices, leveraging our combined 100+ years of experience in the field.
“As our city refocuses on recovering from the devastating economic impact of the pandemic we know that demand for shelter services is certain to dramatically increase,” the letter begins. “Our community’s soup kitchens and food security programs have seen record utilization over the past year, a leading indicator of shelter demand.”
It goes on to observe that continued high unemployment “make it clear that a shelter crisis is coming that will require the help of every single homeless service provider.”
The homeless shelter directors note that they are happy to share best practices and remain committed to ensuring that their missions remain in good standing with the larger community. Increased regulatory control by the city, however, won’t help their operations, the letter observes.
“It is in this context, of needing every bed that we can muster, that we write to ask for a postponement of the proposed legislation requiring licensing of homeless shelters,” the shelter heads wrote. “We are happy to meet with you to discuss specific action items at your convenience. We also appreciate your expressed intent that shelters be able to ‘operate with as much autonomy as is reasonably allowable.’”
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
The letter explains that many shelter operations are “privately funded and require countless hours of unpaid work to support.”
“Volunteers, while naturally motivated to do the best they can, are easily demoralized by top-down management efforts,” the letter continues. “We are very concerned that this effort at licensing will lead to a decrease in shelter supply at what promises to be a very critical time in our city.”
The letter ends by acknowledging that there may come a time when shelter licensing is “the right thing to do in Anchorage – and when it is we will be honored to work with you to set standards and best practices, leveraging our combined 100+ years of experience in the field. Unfortunately, that time is not now. Now is the time to grow our shelter capacity, help however we can, and work together to bring every Alaskan in from the cold.”
The letter is signed by the following signatories:
- Lt. Colonel Doug Tollerud, The Salvation Army Alaska Div.
- Alison Kear, Covenant House
- Pastor John LaMantia, Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission
- Lisa Sauder, Bean’s Café
- Sherrie Laurie, Downtown Hope Center