Anchorage Assembly approves funding for Golden Lion Hotel as temporary leased housing

Anchorage Assembly approves funding for Golden Lion Hotel homeless shelter
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 10:38 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The recent snowfall in Anchorage provided a sharp reminder that winter is quickly approaching and that finalizing a winter plan for housing the homeless is becoming more important by the day.

It set an urgent tone for a packed Anchorage Assembly agenda on Tuesday night as Assembly members and the mayoral administration worked on multiple ordinances related to housing the homeless this winter and beyond.

“There are several items on the agenda tonight that pertain to the municipality’s emergency shelter plan, which is focused on temporarily sheltering individuals experiencing homelessness, especially during cold winter months,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said.

Chief among the items on the agenda was continued discussion on use of the Golden Lion Hotel property — located at East 36th Avenue and the Seward Highway — as temporary leased housing.

By the end of Tuesday’s late meeting, the Assembly passed the ordinance — permitting the hotel and its property to be transformed into temporary leased housing for the winter.

Some assembly members see it as the best available option, but others disagree, which triggered opposing ordinances.

“To prohibit designation of the former Golden Lion Hotel as an emergency shelter, I’d like to incorporate this item and lay it on the table, please,” Assembly Member Jamie Allard said.

The use of the hotel is controversial and while neighbors have their own complaints, Mayor Dave Bronson claims the use of the location as a shelter would be illegal, though the Assembly has said that could be remediated by action from his office. Various other groups have pointed to safety concerns, inside and outside of the building.

While that remains up for discussion, LaFrance said the municipality has already halted construction of a shelter and navigation center on the east side so that the administration can finish its project briefing to the assembly.

“It has been suggested that a 1,000-person facility would solve our community homelessness issue, but a facility of that size would not align with the policy the Assembly adopted in 2018 to conform with national best practices of dispersing services for houseless people through smaller facilities,” LaFrance said.

A vote was also cast to determine if Assembly member Meg Zalatel had a conflict of interest as she’s part of the Coalition to End Homelessness, with a 9-2 vote keeping her on, with only Randy Sulte and Allard voting yes.

Several other ordinances for homelessness funding passed Tuesday night, including an agreement over the continued delivery of meals from Beans Cafe and providing shelter management at the Aviator Hotel.

The next scheduled Assembly meeting is Oct. 25 at the Loussac Library.

Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been corrected to reflect that the Golden Lion was approved for temporary leased housing, not as a homeless shelter.