Anchorage mayor disagrees with team on homeless

Posted: Thursday, December 09, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Mayor Dan Sullivan disagreed with two of the recommendations from the team he launched to address the city's problem of chronic street alcoholics.

City Health and Human Service Director Diane Ingle met with the group Tuesday to present the mayor's response.

Sullivan disagreed with the proposed location for a housing project where drinking would be allowed. He also disagreed with the team saying no homeless camps should be closed without offering residents another place to live, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The team of social service, government, religious and business leaders was formed 14 months ago in response to a string of homeless deaths. The mayor supports most of what the group has proposed, and the city may help by donating land for a future housing project.

The leadership team's No. 1 recommendation in May was renovating an old Red Roof Inn into Karluk Manor, a development where the homeless will get a place to live whether they are ready to stop drinking or not.

Sullivan had concerns about the location between two busy streets on the edge of downtown. The project, being run by Rural CAP, has won approval from the city Planning and Zoning Commission, with conditions.

As for illegal camps in parks and greenbelts, Ingle said they constitute a public safety and health threat that cannot be allowed on public land regardless of the availability of housing. A lawsuit challenging the city's closure of homeless camps has temporarily halted such actions.

The team's efforts have resulted in a new cold weather ordinance that allows churches and social service facilities to become temporary shelters when the temperature drops to 32 degrees or lower. So far, just one, Anchorage City Church, has been approved. It is opening on Friday evenings.

The Legislature approved $5.5 million to plan and design a new detox and treatment center to replace the Salvation Army's aging Clitheroe Center, located near the Stevens International Airport.

The mayor's team may be absorbed into the existing Anchorage Coalition on the Homelessness. But some of the members say they will continue to work together on specific projects.

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