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Alaska editorial: 'Housing First' facility in Anchorage is not perfect, but is a measure of mercy

Some will beat the odds, others may at least die with some measure of dignity

Posted: June 3, 2012 - 12:08am

This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

Karluk Manor is not a miracle. It’s housing for some of the city’s most incorrigible street drunks. In some cases, the best Karluk Manor can do is give a person a safe, clean place to die with some measure of dignity.

Some say that’s not success. But at the very least it’s mercy, and we should be glad we’re providing that.

Beyond that, Anchorage’s six-month experiment with “Housing First,” a policy tried and tested in the Lower 48, has given rise to reports of less drinking, and given some people who otherwise would be written off a measure of hope.

The former Red Roof Inn has an on-site manager and rules of behavior, but those rules allow drinking in rooms. A drunk can remain a drunk there.

The thinking is that the costs of caring for street inebriates — police and Community Service Patrol calls, sleep-off and emergency room visits — will go down. In other words, the taxpayers’ burden will be less. That’s been the case in other cities. For the chronic alcoholics themselves, housing gets them off the streets and possibly into programs that can help.

The odds are against recovery, especially recovery that endures. But sometimes people do beat the odds, or at least fight the battle, and that’s better than life on the street for them, and less expensive for the rest of us.

Fairview business owners and some residents aren’t pleased that Karluk Manor is in their neighborhood. Many of those residents have dealt with more than their fair share of the misery caused by drunkenness and drug dealing, and some have long felt Fairview has been a dumping ground for the city’s social problems. They’ve had enough.

They’re not against Karluk Manor or its goals. They’d just like to see it somewhere else. That view is understandable.

The jury is still out on Karluk Manor’s overall effectiveness. It’s drawn plenty of police calls; harder to know is the number of calls and costs it has prevented.

Let’s give it more time, and take heart in what hope it affords some of the most afflicted among us and their families.

The odds are against recovery, especially recovery that endures. But sometimes people do beats the odds, or at least fight the battle, and that's better than life on the streets for them, and less expensive for the rest of us.
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