Permit hearing on Anchorage alcoholic housing

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission meets Monday night to consider a permit for a project to house homeless alcoholics.

The Rural CAP organization wants to turn a former motel in the Fairview area into Karluk Manor. It would take up to 48 alcoholics off the street and give them beds, meals and services.

Some critics object alcoholics will be allowed to drink in their rooms. The Anchorage Daily News reports opponents include nearby businesses, the Fairview Community Council and the city Planning Department, which say the area has more than its share of social-service programs.

But supporters say a similar program in Seattle shows alcoholics with stable housing drink less and aren't tying up police and emergency room services. The supporters hope to move the most vulnerable alcoholics off Anchorage streets and out of the parks, woods and greenbelts, where 23 have died over the last 14 months.

Rural CAP paid $1.1 million for the Red Roof Inn property. It was awarded $3.5 million in state housing grants to cover the purchase and renovation costs and help run the program for three years. But it won't get the money without the city permit.

Karluk Manor will improve the neighborhood by targeting homeless alcoholics now on the streets, said Melinda Freemon, director of Rural CAP in Anchorage.

"They already are there. I see them all the time. We have informed the Fairview Community Council and the neighborhood that these will be our top priority tenants, to take them out of Fairview (streets) and safely place them in housing," Freemon said.

An opponent who works as a general manager of the nearby Lucky Wishbone restaurant says many of the alcoholics end up in the neighborhood because police and the Community Service Patrol bring them to the sleep-off center next to the city jail. When they sober up, they are let out on the streets of Fairview, not taken back to where they were found.

"We're not NIMBYs," Heinrich said. "It's not a question of we don't want them in our backyard. It's that we have enough in our backyard already.

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