• 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

  • News

    UPDATE: Remains of missing Oregon man found in Denali National Park

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 01, 15:59

    Search efforts to locate a missing Oregon man were called off when his body was discovered not far from the Savage River Loop Trail in Denali National Park and Preserve Sunday. The hiker, 24-year-old Michael Purdy, was found dead near the north end of the trail, according to park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri. “Clues indicate that Purdy […]

  • News

    May 1-7 declared Wildland Fire Prevention & Preparedness Week in Alaska

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 01, 12:27

    Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott have declared the first week of May in 2016 as Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week in Alaska. In a special video announcement, the two leaders discussed what Alaskans can do to prevent wildfires in the state. “Wildland fires can start unpredictably and spread at a rapid pace, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Viaje sin Destino: Argentinian couple reaches Alaska after driving 40,000 miles in VW bus

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 01, 11:05

    For Paul and Erika Piazza, coming to Alaska has been years in the making. The Argentinian couple, looking “north to the future,” took off on three years ago on a never-ending journey, culminating in their recent arrival in Anchorage. “For us it was a dream you know, we grew up together, and we always speak […]

  • Lifestyle

    Federal regulations shut down Alaska’s opiate detox centers

    by Associated Press on May 01, 10:20

    Following reports that Alaska’s opioid detox facilities were closed because of changes to Food and Drug Administration regulations, Cook Inlet Tribal Council spokesman Tim Blum released a statement about the Ernie Turner Center in Anchorage: “Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s Ernie Turner Center in Anchorage will remain open and continue to provide its critical detox services […]

  • News

    At annual gathering, legendary pilot shares his love of flying

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 30, 19:05

    Inside the FedEx hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is any pilot’s dream — Brand-new planes sit alongside historic models. Dozens of booths ring the hangar with the latest gear in aviation technology. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering was organized by the Alaska Airmen Association (AAA), which expects at least 23,000 people to attend […]

  • News

    Spenard celebrates neighborhood renaissance

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 30, 15:05

    Once one of Anchorage’s grittiest neighborhoods, Spenard is now home to a wide spectrum of artists, musicians and young families. Chef Amanda Cash said it was the obvious choice when looking for a permanent home for her food truck, Magpie Kitchen at Large. “I live in the neighborhood, and I believe in the neighborhood,” Cash […]

  • Politics

    Alaska Republican Party elects new chairman

    by Liz Raines on Apr 30, 12:53

    Tuckerman Babcock is taking over as chairman of the Alaska Republican Party after a vote by members at the state convention in Fairbanks Saturday morning. Babcock won by 52 percent in a three-way race against Ann Brown and Ric Davidge. The final count came after more than 40 minutes of debate on the party’s rules […]

  • News

    Faster than a Falcon: Kids, parents race to beat mascot in Mountain View 5K

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 30, 11:34

    Participants of the seventh-annual Faster Than a Falcon 5K run took off through Mountain View Saturday morning, hoping to win a special prize. The goal for racers each year is to beat a costumed “falcon” runner to the finish line for a special prize. This year’s “falcon” runner was dressed as a raven, who joked, […]