Originally published in the Anchorage Press

An ordinance proposed Tuesday, Sept. 26 to aid in quicker cleanups of homeless camps was passed by the Anchorage Assembly on Dec. 5. Originally proposed by Anchorage Assembly member Eric Croft, the ordinance reduces the homeless camp cleanup time from 15 days to 10 days. This means that police will give a 10 days notice on any “public nuisances.” After the 10 days are up, the police or the Parks and Recreation Department can clean up the effects left behind.

Homeless Camps - Victoria Petersen.jpg

Prior to the 10 or 15 day notices, homeless camps were being cleaned up and removed without notice. In 2010, ACLU of Alaska sued the city for the destruction of property belonging to the people inhabiting these camps. The policy was ruled unconstitutional and a 15-day notice was put into place. This gives the people living in the camps time to grab their belongings and vacate the area.

Faasoosoo Sofua walks the trails often and knows some of Anchorage’s homeless people.

“They have no home, their family doesn’t want them around, so they come here,” Sofua said. “They get into drugs, then they go crazy. They mess with people on the trails. They have nowhere else to go,”

Madeline Neel has been walking the trails near her Lake Otis apartment for years. She said she finds homeless camps to be a problem all across the Anchorage greenbelt.

“It makes me feel relieved to hear that the Assembly is working to resolve this issue, but I can’t help but wonder if these evictions will just cause homeless camps to move around the greenbelt and not actually do much to resolve homelessness in Anchorage,” Neel said. “I think in the least, it would be nice to see some of the larger camps be broken up around the trails that are used by the most people, but it causes me to have more fears that these camps will move further into the woods and make it more dangerous to explore less popular side trails.”

Croft believes the new, shorter notice times helps Anchorage “gain control of our spaces.”

“We have to strike up a balance of compassion for somebody who’s trying to live on the street, and cleaning up these neighborhoods. They do not have a right to be here. It’s illegal camping,” Croft said.

The Anchorage Municipality has allocated one of the largest budgets for services to combat homelessness with the Assembly passing a budget of $500,000 and Parks and Recreation passing a budget of $170,000.

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