Mayor's team looks at homeless problem

Posted: Monday, October 19, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says a dozen homeless deaths since spring amount to a crisis.

He said reducing deaths, violence and illegal camping by alcoholics are the goals of his Homelessness Leadership Team.

The 36-member team held its first meeting Thursday at City Hall.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the team includes leaders of social service agencies, churches, advocacy groups and Alaska Native health organizations. Members include state Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt, Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Hogan, Alaska AIDS Assistance Association Executive Director Trevor Storrs and Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority chief executive Jeff Jessee.

Sullivan said this group will be different from other efforts targeting the homeless because it's zeroing in on the problem of chronic homeless alcoholics. That small group, roughly 200 to 300 individuals, costs the public millions a year for emergency services, he said.

The mayor said he's realistic about the problem.

"I don't think we can solve it," he said. But he hopes the new effort will "put a dent in it."

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