Assembly passes resolution allowing homeless camp on vacant land by Cuddy Park

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 11:12 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2023 at 7:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A resolution to allow unhoused residents to camp at a Midtown Anchorage site, starting in mid-July, passed Tuesday night.

After the Assembly chose last month to delay discussion on a proposal from the Sanctioned Camps Community Task Force, it took up an amended version of that resolution — a version heavily amended by Assembly member Felix Rivera that he believed would be more “politically feasible”, and which narrowed the number of proposed sites from five to one.

The S-1 version, put forth by Rivera, gives the Assembly’s approval to establish an allowed homeless camp on vacant land at East 40th Avenue and Denali Street. That’s the former National Archives site, on a plot of land adjacent to Cuddy Park.

After much discussion on the amended resolution, it passed 9-2 with only Assembly Chair Chris Constant and Scott Myers voting against it.

Anchorage will move forward with an allowed campsite for people experiencing homelessness

The proposal would provide space for 30 to 60 adults to camp in vehicles, tents and eventually, small structures known as pallet shelters.

Under the proposal the campground would open on July 17 and close on Sept. 1, 2024 — over a year later. Rivera said whether the campground would become permanent could be evaluated at that time.

“I think pallet shelters are a really great idea and something that we really haven’t tested too much in Anchorage and so I want to see the viability of using pallet shelters year round, so not just during the summer but over the winter,” Rivera said.

Rivera estimated the cost of 30 pallet shelters or similar structures that have electricity but no plumbing, to run around $380,000. The assembly directed the administration to put out a request for proposals to get a better idea of the cost as well as how soon the structures could arrive in Anchorage if they were ordered from out of state.

Mayor Dave Bronson said he was prepared to work with the assembly on the proposal but added that his administration had put forth a similar proposal for sanctioned campgrounds in February which the assembly rejected at that time. The Mayor said the RFP for shelters at the site would go out shortly but that challenges about funding remained.

“The problem comes down to money, there’s no money left to do a lot of this,” Bronson said. “I support this, but we got to look at the money now.”

Bronson said he also agreed with Assembly Chair Chris Constant who voted against the proposal and who said at Tuesday’s meeting that the focus should be on finding permanent winter shelter instead.

“I believe that a sanctioned camp is waiving of the white flag of failure, we should be working on our permanent shelter, we should be working on housing,” Constant said at the Tuesday meeting.

But Rivera disagreed.

“What we have before us is just simply baby steps. It will allow us to stand something up that is realistic, feasible, and timely and I know that this is something that we can do,” Rivera said. “We can do this, with this proposal that we have before us, right. We just need the political will.”