Anchorage task force tackling homelessness

Homeless Leadership Team held its first meeting Thursday

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has a new team to tackle the problem of homeless alcoholics.

The Homeless Leadership Team held its first meeting Thursday at City Hall after some members took part in a tour Wednesday of soggy tents in the Chester Creek greenbelt.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that members tiptoed over toilet paper and saw a man get arrested and a woman get hauled away to the city sleep-off center for the dangerously drunk.

The tour was led by Ed O'Neill, the head of the Anchorage Responsible Beverage Retailers Association. O'Neill also is part of the homeless team that includes leaders from social services, Native and church groups and government agencies.

O'Neill has been leading tours of homeless camps for years. Police helped him lead the latest tour with about a dozen people and two TV crews, going from Valley of the Moon Park into the greenbelt.

Police Sgt. Denny Allen posted an illegal camping notice on a tent, giving the occupants 12 hours to clear out, an action he repeated a number of times. If the illegal campers don't move on their own, crews and community service workers will clear out their stuff, throwing away much of it.

At another cluster of tents, police found a young man in wet socks and ripped pants who said he'd been out there about a month. He had been in the Alaska Military Youth Academy but then went to jail for a time, he said.

The officer asked about his shoes. He said he lost track of them sometime the night before.

Officer Will Cameron ran a check, discovered an outstanding warrant, cuffed the man and took him to jail.

The group trekked past piles of garbage and empty bottles.

Police found a woman in a tent who seemed drunk, slurring her words. They called for the Community Service Patrol van. Officer Jennifer Haywood walked her out of the woods. Later, the officer said the woman showed a blood-alcohol content of .30 and was taken to the sleep-off facility.

Allen said the homeless people usually move to another nearby spot when the camps are cleared. Some are from out of state, drawn by the Permanent Fund dividend or hopes of a job, he said. Some are from villages. Some are mentally ill.

"It's just a big revolving wheel. We'll clean them out of here, and we'll come back in a month and they'll be right back in here, just like they are now," Allen said.

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