• 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

    Alaska Gov.-elect Bill Walker appoints law partner as attorney general

    by Rhonda McBride on Nov 27, 1:57

    On Monday, Dec. 1, Bill Walker will leave his private law practice behind to become governor of Alaska. But he won’t be leaving behind his longtime partner, Craig Richards, who will now serve as attorney general. Richards says he took the job because he believes the governor needs a good lawyer. “I was being a […]

  • News

    Thanksgiving travel tales from the Anchorage airport

    by Kate McPherson on Nov 26, 23:27

    Spending Thanksgiving with loved ones isn’t possible for everyone. But for others, taking a flight or two is all it takes to get the family together. At the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Wednesday night, 2-year-old Rachael waited patiently for her dad to come home from the North Slope. Her mom, Melissa Chapman, is happy that […]

  • News

    After power outage, Tuluksak families get turkey donation

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 26, 22:50

    Families that lost tons of meat after a power outage in Tuluksak will now have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving. The community of nearly 400 went without electricity for an extended period of time following a power plant failure. Because of the warm temperatures, many people weren’t able to keep their subsistence meat frozen. […]

  • News

    ‘Tis the season: 800 Christmas lights on Government Hill

    by Heather Hintze on Nov 26, 22:11

    Residents riding around Anchorage may notice a familiar sight in Government Hill. The lights have been turned on at the Christmas Tree on the neighborhood’s cell tower — a day students at Government Hill Elementary School have been waiting for all year long. The students waited anxiously on the eve of Thanksgiving for the school’s […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Nov. 26

    by KTVA Weather on Nov 26, 19:36

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Skies will be partly sunny for Thanksgiving, but expect to wake up to early morning fog. Southeast Expect clouds to move out as clearing happens from the north to the south. Interior and North Slope In the Interior, skies will be mostly clear with temperatures dramatically cooling off. North […]

  • News

    Farmer’s market in Anchorage offers Thanksgiving alternatives to turkey

    by Lauren Maxwell on Nov 26, 19:29

    Alaskans who want to eat local this holiday season will find plenty to fill their holiday tables. That’s especially true if they are open to some alternatives for the main course. At the Center Market, a year-round farmer’s market inside the Sears Mall, shoppers could be found on the day before Thanksgiving picking up produce […]

  • News

    Anchorage students learn about the godmother of Thanksgiving

    by Alexis Fernandez on Nov 26, 19:23

    Food and family are two of the symbols most associated with Thanksgiving. On the eve of the national holiday, one group of local sixth-graders decided to dig a little deeper. Word-by-word, sixth-grade students at College Gate Elementary School relived history and learned about the past. They put together a presentation about well-known author Sarah Hale, known as […]

  • News

    Injured musher, dogs recovering after being struck by car in Willow

    by Shannon Ballard on Nov 26, 19:14

    Willow, Alaska is musher country, a place where residents joke that there are more dogs than people. Dog sled trails weave through the trees right up against the Parks Highway. Six-time Iditarod finisher Karin Hendrickson is familiar with the curve near mile marker 91. It’s where she and her sled dog team were stuck by […]