• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 50s

Committee formed to examine substance abuse, mental illness among homeless

By Hope Miller 10:14 AM August 15, 2014
ANCHORAGE –

Particularly during the summer, it’s not uncommon to see homeless people on the streets in pockets of Anchorage.

A few blocks away from Brother Francis Shelter Thursday evening, a young man in tattered jeans with a windbreaker draped over his head could be seen pummeling a light post. He stood alone, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. He could have been been inebriated, mentally ill or both.

Not far away, dozens of homeless people congregated in front of the shelter.

Substance abuse, chronic homelessness and mental health are interrelated issues a group of Anchorage Assembly members are hoping to tackle with a newly formed committee.

The group, which met for the first time Thursday afternoon, has a multifaceted mission: Work with the community to pinpoint the causes and effects of substance abuse among the chronically homeless and examine mental health issues within the population. The Assembly members also want to look at the impact of homelessness on municipal and private sector resources, and educational programs and possible funding sources to deal with problems surrounding Anchorage’s homeless population.

According to a 2014 report, 117 out of 709 people surveyed said the main reason they became homeless was because of substance abuse or a mental health incident. More than a quarter of people surveyed said substance abuse made it difficult to retain housing while 20 percent of people said a mental illness made it hard to find permanent shelter.

Assembly members Bill Evans, Amy Demboski, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Pete Petersen don’t want to just talk amongst themselves, they said. They aim to involve groups known for taking on similar issues, such as Catholic Social Services, and said they want to hear from the public.

No idea is off the table, Evans said.

“If we’re going to be successful, I think we’re going to have to draw from all sides,” he said. “I think we have to be very courageous on this committee and not be afraid to do or say anything,” he later added.

At the meeting, Petersen proposed that the Alaska Legislature put more revenue collected from the state’s alcohol tax toward substance abuse treatment and prevention. At the moment, the former legislator said, state law encourages lawmakers to allocate half the money to alcohol and drug abuse programs.

The municipality has tried to address some of these issues already, said Demboski, referencing the Anchorage Safety Patrol.

“But we recognize that we have a fundamental issue that isn’t necessarily being tackled head on,” she said.

According to the four, this is the first Assembly committee that will take a closer look at the connections between the chronically homeless, mental health and substance abuse.

“I think we have a different makeup on the Assembly and there’s multiple members who are passionate and want to focus on this,” Demboski said.

Comments from the public about disruptive behavior among the homeless also helped fuel the committee’s creation, Petersen said.

The Assembly members plan to meet next month and invite the public and local organizations to share their ideas.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    First cruise ship of the season docks in Anchorage

    by Jacquie Slater on May 25, 23:35

    The first cruise ship of the 2015 season docked Monday in the Port of Anchorage. The ms Statendam is part of the Holland America Line and carries up to 1260 passengers. For this first group of “cruisers,” their journey started on May 18 in Seattle. Anchorage was their sixth stop on their 14 day cruise. “We’ve […]

  • Politics

    1 week until state employees receive potential layoff notices

    by Kate McPherson on May 25, 22:37

    In one week, some of Alaska’s state employees will receive notice of potential layoffs. It can be prevented, however, if Alaska lawmakers come to an agreement on the operating budget and how to fund it. “Nobody wants a government shutdown,” said Majority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett on Monday. ”We are working incredibly hard to make sure […]

  • News

    Mat-Su Veteran’s Highway wreaths pay tribute to fallen soldier, stepson

    by Shannon Ballard on May 25, 22:32

    You can tell just by looking at Tony Shelton and his wife Angela that they love their country. On Memorial Day, they made sure to wear red, white and blue. For five years now, the couple has spent Memorial Day weekend making patriotic wreaths and hanging them along the Mat-Su Veteran’s Highway. Shelton is a U.S. Air […]

  • News

    Anchorage police: No injuries in vehicle fire on Glenn Highway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 25, 21:56

    The Anchorage Police Department is investigating a vehicle fire on the Glenn Highway that briefly closed inbound lanes. The fire was reported just before 10 p.m. and fully engulfed the vehicle. Police say all the occupants of the vehicle were able to exit the vehicle without injuries. All inbound lanes were diverted through the North […]

  • On-Air

    The Science of Sugar: What sugar may be doing to our bodies

    by Ivanhoe Newswire on May 25, 21:34

    Americans are consuming more sugar than ever before. But what effect is this sweet trend having on our health? Laura Schmidt, a professor at University of California San Francisco, says Americans consume nearly three times more sugar than is recommended. “Currently we’re consuming about twice as much as we did say in 1970,” she said. […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, May 25

    by KTVA Weather on May 25, 20:56

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound Partly cloudy skies with isolated showers, especially in the afternoon.   Southeast Increasing clouds as the pattern begins to change.   Interior/North Slope Interior skies will be mostly cloudy with a chance of dry lightning storms for eastern areas. There is a red flag warning for the Upper Tanana Valley and […]

  • Lifestyle

    The Sound of Freedom: AMGA’s Memorial Day Shootout

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 25, 19:20

    A group of Alaskans are remembering and honoring veterans by celebrating one of the freedoms they gave their lives for. The freedom to bear arms was largely exercised at the Alaska Machine Gun Association (AMGA) Memorial Day Shootout. Every year, gun enthusiasts gather in Anderson to engage their right to carry and shoot a firearm. […]

  • News

    Memorial Day ceremony draws hundreds to downtown Anchorage

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 25, 18:17

    Several hundred people turned out for a Memorial Day service held at the Veteran’s Memorial on the Anchorage Park Strip Monday morning. Speakers included Sen. Dan Sullivan, himself a veteran, who asked service members from almost every era to stand and be recognized. Several World War Two veterans were in attendance, including 96-year-old Norman Elliot. […]