Alaska editorial: Karluk Manor death

This editorial first apepared in the Anchorage Daily News:

If Karluk Manor, the motel for chronic alcoholics, means nothing more than death in a warm bed, then it’s still an act of kindness and humanity.

It’s more than that, of course. Karluk Manor is Anchorage’s version of “Housing First” projects in other cities that allow street drunks to keep drinking but give them a safe, warm, supervised place to do it. The idea is to get this group of homeless people off the street where they cause trouble for themselves and others and cost taxpayers small fortunes in emergency care that becomes as chronic as their drinking.

And the hope is that some will step from shelter to a better life, a life of recovery.

But some are likely to end their lives at Karluk Manor, fatal victims of a powerful addiction.

So it apparently was with 54-year-old John Kort, found dead New Year’s Day. Kort was one of the first people to live at Karluk Manor, which opened Dec. 8. He was the first to die there.

Melinda Freemon, who runs the manor for Rural CAP, told the Daily News the agency expects some of the manor’s guests will die there. Their chances may be better in supervised housing, but the odds are still against them. Some live with minds, bodies and spirits so ravaged by drinking and drug abuse that a room at Karluk Manor will be the most a caring city can do for them, a last mercy.

Karluk Manor remains a controversial proposition. Some nearby residents have raised questions about “wet housing” becoming a draw for alcoholics to the neighborhood, with attendant risks of violence and drunks stumbling into traffic. Concerns are valid. We don’t have any answers down pat.

And we don’t know much about John Kort’s death. But we do know that he didn’t die out in the cold and had a place to lay his head because some people could see past the misery to the man.

That says something good about the community. And that says Karluk Manor is at least worth the benefit of the doubt.

For one man, Karluk Manor was a last act of mercy.

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