Community leaders meet again to discuss homelessness issue at Centennial Park

The Northeast Community Council met Thursday night to help the public better understand what’s happening at Centennial Park.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 9:26 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Northeast Community Council met Thursday night to help the public better understand what’s happening at Centennial Park.

At the end of June, the Sullivan Arena was closed as a mass homelessness shelter and dozens of those experiencing homelessness were moved to the Centennial Park campground, which was unceremoniously announced as a site to house the homeless until July 31.

“We want our park back, we want our campground back, that simple,” said a member of the public.

Community members demanded answers from the Anchorage Assembly members who were there and other state lawmakers, as well as other community members and leaders.

Absent, however, at Thursday’s meeting were any members from the Municipality of Anchorage to answer the public’s many questions. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson sent a letter to the community council saying he would answer their questions in writing.

As for those who did show up to the meeting, many of them were ready to speak out.

“I can only describe the conditions inside the park as being deplorable,” said a different resident.

State Sen. Bill Wielechowski agreed.

“To say it has not been re-purposed into a homeless camp is ridiculous,” Wielechowski said. “Anyone who’s driven through there, I’ve been in there. It is a homeless camp. When I was in there, there were fights going on, there were police coming in, there was alcohol being abused, drugs being abused.”

Additionally, the president of the Northeast Community Council, George Martinez, said the group wants to codify what they believe would be appropriate communication and notification processes when working with community councils on bigger decisions.

Martinez said he is adding in any input people had Thursday night to what the council is putting together for the city.

“The Northeast Community Council is strongly opposed to the continued emergency repurposing of Centennial Park, and encourages the mayor’s office to immediately begin relocating unhoused individuals, starting with the most vulnerable to appropriate housing alternative sheltering,” Martinez said.

The Municipality of Anchorage initially claimed Centennial Park as a space for the homeless through the month of July, but there is no word yet as to how long that designation might continue to last.

The next community council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. in the training room at the Centennial Village.

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