In recent weeks, there has been an increase of homeless tents popping up near downtown, and even though Anchorage police still actively enforce the illegal camps, the campers say they plan on coming back.
You may have noticed the crowded space on East Third Avenue next to Bean's Café and the Brother Francis Shelter. The increase of homeless tents popping up inside the bushes and weeds and in some cases directly on the sidewalks. Tents that Amanda Williams and her friends say until Wednesday morning, have been up on this pathway for the past two weeks.
"We went through 4 or 5 tents over here," said Williams, who has been homeless for more than a year. "Police told us that having our tents up just kind of blocks it for the public, they just asked us to take it down during the day and at night if we need to, put it up."
But the row of tents are considered illegal camps based on municipal code.
"When they go into these camps, the first thing they are asking is what their health needs, are they willing to cooperate with social services, and why are you where you are at," said Lt. Garry Gilliam, who is the commander for APD's CAP Team, who is in charge of the enforcement and referral process.
The idea is to try to get people living on the streets the right resources to get them back on their feet.
"We want to encourage the clients to take advantage of the shelters, this is where they are going to be safe, they are not going to be taken advantage of," said Lisa Sauder, who is the executive director of Bean's Café.
But when you ask some people who call the outdoors their home, despite real life dangers, they don't stay in the shelter because of rules that include the 30 day-out policy.
"I don't like Brother Francis, they wake you up in 5 in the morning, let you out at 7, cold or not," said Natalia Apokedak.
But according to APD, crime is happening with the illegal campers who are trying to stay close enough to still receive certain services.
"That's why you see a lot of people standing around the outside of the perimeter waiting for their next meal there," Gilliam said.
But Williams, who has been homeless for more than a year, says its about people grouping up to be safe.
"We are like the third highest state for sex crimes against women, so a lot of times a lot of these girls who get drunk are not in the right state of mind to protect their selves," Williams said.
"We are not heartless, we want people to be able to have services but at some point," Gilliam said. "But if the community is trying to help these individuals they need to step up to the plate and say, 'Okay, I'm not going to commit crimes, I'm not going to create these problems especially for people who are trying to help me'."
A clamping down of the law that looks like it will still be challenged in the future.
"They kicked us out for now, but we will probably be back," Williams said.
Based on municipal code, illegal camps on public property will get a 15 day posting to remove them or face trespassing charges. If an illegal camp is on a sidewalk they will be asked to remove them immediately. Brother Francis Shelter says if an individual is working with a case worker on treatment or on getting off the streets, that 30 day out rule can be extended.
Corey Allen-Young KTUU Channel 2 Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org 744-2642 cell