Fairbanks cracks down on homeless

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2008

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks officials are cracking down on illegal camps that are home to dozens of people.

Already, they've done away with a homeless camp along the Steese Highway. The city now has plans to cut down wooded areas west of the Richardson Highway to make it less inviting for transients.

Chief of Staff Pat Cole said the area has a history.

"That area has a long history of problems, and it was an obvious safety concern if we allowed it to go on," Cole said.

The wooded property east of the highway is owned by Fort Wainwright, which has no plans to cut down the area. But the Army said it recognizes the area is a problem.

"The camp has posed a potential force-protection risk for Fort Wainwright to allow individuals to encroach upon military property," said Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for Fort Wainwright.

Surrounding neighborhoods both on and off base have safety concerns of their own.

"The area has produced its fair share of disturbances and was notorious for being problematic for other surrounding residents as well," Douglass said.

Since the city and military have cleaned out the area, many of the homeless have gravitated to the streets of downtown Fairbanks.

Ricky Blount and his girlfriend, Dorothy Pitts, once called the wooded area home.

"We'd never seen a no trespassing sign around," Pitts said.

They both said they kept to themselves, for the most part, and prided themselves on keeping the area clean.

"We didn't like to associate with the drunks out there, and we always tried to make it a peaceful setting," Pitts said.

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