ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Anchorage municipal officials said they are considering spending up to $22.5 million to buy property that would be converted to shelters and service sites.
The proposed ordinance for the purchases would use federal coronavirus relief funding designated for the municipality.
The properties under consideration include the Bean’s Cafe food service and shelter and a former Alaska Club building for use as engagement centers for homeless residents.
The city is also considering buying a Best Western/Golden Lion Inn for a treatment facility and an Americas Best Value Inn & Suites for housing and for resource distribution.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said Friday that the public would be involved throughout the process to address longstanding community problems.
“There are hard choices in front of us,” Berkowitz said. “One of the choices we can make is doing nothing. But doing nothing at this point is a deliberative choice.”
Berkowitz’s chief of staff, Jason Bockenstedt, said the Americas Best Value property in Spenard has 100 rooms that could accommodate unsheltered residents and provide office space for social service agency workers.
The property would provide what Bockenstedt called “bridge housing.”
Bridge housing offers temporary accommodations while tenants search for permanent homes and address other life issues, often with the help of case managers.
The former Alaska Club building near the Old Seward Highway could accommodate up to 125 people in an overnight shelter in addition to serving as a daytime engagement center, said Chris Schutte, Anchorage economic and community development director.
The coronavirus health emergency initially shifted the city’s homeless shelter system away from the Brother Francis Shelter and Bean’s Cafe.
The city opened two sporting arenas as mass shelters to allow social distancing between cots. The Ben Boeke Ice Arena has since ended shelter services while the adjacent Sullivan Arena continues to accommodate up to 377 people.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.