Campers say goodbye to temporary home as Centennial Campground closes

Campers say goodbye to a temporary home, as Centennial Campground closes tonight
Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 3:15 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Centennial Park campground, which acted as a temporary homeless camp in Anchorage, closed its gates Saturday at 5 p.m.

According to the Municipality of Anchorage, they will not be forcing campers who are already at the site to leave. However, no new campers will be allowed on the property.

Workers spent Saturday circling around the campsite advising campers to go to the Sullivan Arena.

“We’re walking around, letting people know that the campground is going to be shut down to the public at 5 p.m. today and incentivizing people to seek a better place to go — which is the Sullivan arena,” the Housing and Homeless Coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage, Alexis Johnson, said.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, transportation was provided by the municipality of Anchorage, for campers to go to the Sullivan Arena.

The Sullivan arena will intake 150 people in the current emergency shelter plan, approved by the assembly.

“A lot of people we’ve been talking to, I said, ‘You got to get there early if you don’t have a spot,’” Johnson said.

Johnson said many people she talked to seemed eager to leave once they realized how cold the weather was turning.

“It’s D-Day,” Stacey Clements, a camper at Centennial, said. “It’s time to go.”

Clements is preparing to enter her first winter of being homeless.

“I’m going to Sullivan because they are only taking so many people and I need that spot,” Clements said.

Clements had been living at the campground since July. The thought of moving Saturday brought her to tears, as she said goodbye to a place that quickly became a community.

“It’s really sad, we became a community. There is a lot of bad out here, but there’s a lot of good,” Clements said.

Margaret Felix said she is going to miss the security guards at the campsite. Felix and her partner began packing on Wednesday in preparation for their move Saturday. The duo attempted to pack all that they owned into the two crates or two bags that they are allowed to bring to Sullivan Arena.

The thought of leaving any belongings behind, Felix said, would be losing everything all over again.

“It will be like losing everything again, lots of things. We lost so much stuff already,” Felix said.

The municipality said they will not be forcing residents to leave. However, at 5 p.m., no new campers will be allowed on the campsite.

Campers can leave items in the provided storage bunkers at Centennial for up to 30 days.