Downtown drinking is leaving some out in the cold

In this March 25, 2017 photo, Cindy Dau, left, checks on homeless people sleeping in the downtown Transit Center. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

At a recent stop at the downtown transit center, I went inside to get warm as it was a cold, blustery day. Sitting on the only space available in the center of the room, I counted twenty individuals, seemingly under the heavy influence of alcohol. There were people in sleeping bags lying on the floor, an assortment of backpacks and personal belongings in various types of plastic bags. Some people were arguing, and at one point an older man even lit up a cigarette. When he did this, a younger gentleman rushed at him and grabbed the cigarette from his mouth, the spark falling to the floor, exclaiming, “You’re not supposed to smoke in the transit center!” Appearing unfazed, the older man calmly continued drinking and chatting with his peers at that table.

I noticed the elderly and children waiting outside the transit center, I’m sure settling for dealing with the wind and icy cold environment, preferring it to the informal partying going on within the transit center. It seems the downtown transit center was built to shelter people, especially the elderly and children of our society, from cold and wet weather while waiting for their bus to arrive. Apparently, this idea has become a thing of the past.

It seems unfair to those needing shelter from the elements in Alaska, to have to wait outside this shelter built for them to wait for the bus. Instead the downtown transit center has become a place for people to hang out and drink. To me, it seems to be a gray area. Surely, I do not want anyone to suffer from the cold conditions we must live through in the winter months. However, when one weighs the problem it has become, I think it is not fair to the elders and children to have to give up a warm shelter such as the downtown transit center just because there is drinking and other unhealthy behavior occurring there. Therein lies the question of the day. What can be done to separate these two groups of people so everyone stays warm?

Lynda Watts,

Juneau

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