ANCHORAGE (KTUU)- It's still too early to know if a new ordinance will fix an old issue in Anchorage: homeless camps. But while the city has put forth big money, there's no guarantee that it will lead to big changes.
The Anchorage Assembly shortened the enforcement period for all nuisance abatement. While the policy affects all people in Anchorage, it will have the biggest impact on the homeless camps scattered throughout the city.
Many residents still have questions and concerns over whether the new policy is not just enough to address the issue, but tolerant enough as well. One of those residents is Vicki Wolfe, an Anchorage school teacher, who was playing fetch with her dog Sparky earlier at Valley of the Moon Park.
"I don't know where these people are going to go. It's a real hard thing. We really don't have the facilities to help everyone, we don't have the money, and at the same time it's hard having people in the woods. Sometimes it seems a little scary; there's a lot of garbage, I mean I'm kind of on the line I don't know what to do about this problem," said Wolfe.
Anchorage Assemblyman Eric Croft says that unlike previous years, the new ordinance won't result in simply posting a notice and requesting those in the illegal self-made campsites to leave.
"I said to people, look, if all we're going to be doing is cutting the time they have from 15 days to 10 days, I'm not interested. Unless it's part of a package deal that addresses it and so everything from clearing out this brush, to taking out those dug outs, reducing the time, providing more treatment and housing options. This is not going to be easy or short-term but if we do all those things we have a chance I think," said Croft.
The Alaska ACLU has previously sued and won cases involving homeless campsite evictions but this time around says it is seeing a more tolerant and acceptable approach to the issue from the city.
"The Assembly, at our request, added to its new nuisance abatement ordinance a sunset provision, an acknowledgment that the Municipality is not doing enough to fully meet the needs of Anchorage’s homeless population, and preserved a $500,000 budget allocation aimed at homeless services, defeating several efforts to divert the money for other purposes—including cracking down on people experiencing homelessness themselves," statement provided by Casey Reynolds, ACLU of Alaska.
The city has its work cut out for it and hopes the additional funds, including $170,000 to Anchorage Parks and Recreation to help with cleanup, will result in a better community for those with and without homes.