• 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

    Bean’s Cafe clients pitch in for cleanup

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 27, 17:43

    The area around Bean’s Café and the Brother Francis Shelter is looking a lot brighter after clients picked up 420 pounds of garbage Friday morning. The clean-up included removing a few items left on Karluk Street where people have been camping on the sidewalk for months. Police said most of the campers had moved on […]

  • News

    Yup’ik spelling bee preserves language

    by Shannon Ballard on Mar 27, 17:23

    Anchorage students competed in a district wide Yup’ik spelling bee at Clark Middle School on Friday, a unique spelling contest that’s helping preserve an Alaskan native language. Yup’ik is becoming increasingly uncommon in urban areas, but some of the participants still speak it in their homes. The fourth annual event is designed to keep the language alive. […]

  • News

    Senator Sullivan opens new office in Fairbanks

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 27, 15:29

    Sen. Dan Sullivan announced the opening of a new office in Fairbanks Friday to act as a hub for Interior constituents to voice their concerns or comments. Leslie Hajdukovich was named as Sullivan’s Special Assistant for the Interior, and will be leading the new office. “I am excited to announce Leslie as the newest addition […]

  • News

    Anchorage police take mini horses into custody

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 27, 14:44

    Anchorage police officers wrangled two miniature horses Friday morning after they escaped their home. Around 5:40 a.m., police dispatch received a call that two ponies were grazing in a median near Northern Lights Boulevard and Boniface Parkway, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. Within a minute of the first report, someone else called in […]

  • News

    The legal brawl over “Happy Birthday To You”

    by Jonathan Berr / MoneyWatch on Mar 27, 14:28

    A federal judge in California may decide within the next few weeks whether to throw out the decades-old copyright for “Happy Birthday to You.” The judge could also order millions of dollars to be refunded to people who have licensed the song in recent years from its current owner Warner/Chappel Music, the music publishing arm […]

  • News

    Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

    by Associated Press on Mar 27, 14:13

    Italy’s highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case. The decision by the supreme Court of Cassation is the final ruling in the case, ending the long legal battle waged by Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito. Both Knox, who was awaiting the […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage woman changes plea in sex trafficking case

    by Dave Leval on Mar 27, 13:53

    Amber Batts — a woman accused of managing sex workers across the state — will likely spend the next few years in prison. The Anchorage woman pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree sex trafficking Friday morning. Authorities arrested Batts and her husband, Quinn, in July 2014 as part of a statewide prostitution investigation. […]

  • News

    Alaska appeals court sides with state in fishing case

    by Associated Press on Mar 27, 13:05

    The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled against 13 Yup’ik Eskimo fishermen who challenged their convictions of illegal king salmon on the Kuskokwim River during a poor run in 2012. The Appellate Court sided with the state Friday, saying protecting king salmon stocks supersedes the argument by plaintiffs that the state had a duty to accommodate […]