Razing 'The Hill'

AEL&P employees remove homeless enclave on hillside above South Franklin Street

Posted: Friday, November 13, 2009

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. employees razed the downtown homeless enclave known as "The Hill" Thursday.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Armed Goldbelt Security guards swept the illegal campsites around 9 a.m. looking for pockets of homeless people residing on the hillside above the emergency bypass road off South Franklin Street. About a half dozen people were located before demolition crews with an excavator and dump trucks began cleaning up around 10:30 a.m.

About two-dozen makeshift structures were standing Thursday morning, some of which had recently been lived in and others that were long abandoned. AEL&P employee Eric Eriksen estimated there was several tons of debris and litter strewn about the property that could take days or weeks to fully purge. Some of the structures were tucked deep in the woods and would have to be removed by hand, Eriksen said.

AEL&P warned the residents with signs last week that they would raze the illegal camps and anyone staying would be arrested for trespassing. The company decided to clean up the area after a felled tree struck a power line and caused a brief power outage.

The alder that was cut down was apparently used for a platform of a structure, Eriksen said. The structure was abandoned, though a generator, propane tanks, tools and more were left behind.

Other lived-in structures had beds, paperwork, books, jewelry and other personal items. At one site, there were hundreds of discarded beer cans with at least a half dozen used syringes strewn about.

The city announced earlier this week that it will keep the Thane Campground open throughout the winter so the displaced homeless citizens will have a legal place to stay if they choose. The city halved the monthly camping fee from $100 to $50.

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