Shorten notice periods for homeless camps, but is it mostly symbolic?

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) An Anchorage assembly member says changes that would impact illegal campsites is mostly symbolic.

Tuesday evening, the assembly shortened the enforcement period for all nuisance abatements, which affects everyone, but most famously impacts homeless camps scattered throughout the city.

Assemblyman Chris Constant says the changes show the people and businesses in the area that the assembly recognizes that homeowners have rights, as well as the homeless.

"I don't know how much difference it's going to have on the camps," Constant said about the shortened timeline, "because the camps are pretty spread out."

Assemblyman Eric Croft first introduced the measure in October.

Wednesday afternoon, Constant walked the trail near the Sullivan Arena and quickly found a handful of camps most had elaborate setups including one campsite with insulation and the frame for a makeshift home.

The air around the camps smelled like booze and cigarettes. The trash left behind has been a constant frustration for people who live near the trails and for people who use the parks.

The police department started posting 15 day notices after the ACLU of Alaska sued the city, claiming that police were destroying the property of homeless people without enough notice. A judge agreed that Anchorage's policies were unconstitutional. That action then set the 15-day notification time-period.

Wednesday afternoon Casey Reynolds, a spokesman for the ACLU of Alaska said in an email that, "We are reviewing the Assembly's action and will have a response in the coming days."

Reynolds added "On a sperate (sic) note, the ordinance did not shorten the period for "illegal campsites." It shortened the enforcement period for ALL nuisance abatements. Is worth noting in your reporting that going forward this will affect all homeowners, businesses, and anyone else cited under the nuisance code. This is a significant difference between what the assembly did this time around vs. what they did in 2010."

Constant says the assembly might need to revisit a second option offered by the ACLU.

"I think at some point we might need to avail ourselves of the ACLU's second option, which is immediate 72 hour abatement and store their (illegal camper) goods," Constant said.

In the meantime Constant says he's hopeful the mayor's homeless initiative will decrease the homeless problem in Anchorage.

"I am very hopeful that the mayor's comprehensive homeless initiative is going to start showing some benefit and that we are going to start seeing a reduction in the number of people on the street," Constant said.

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