• 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

  • Crime

    Retired APD officer explains gang investigations in Alaska

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 24, 6:25

    The victim of a recent kidnapping has claimed that her abductors have gang affiliations and may even have been involved in a handful of Anchorage homicides this summer. The Anchorage Police Department has stated they have not been able to prove any of the homicides are connected or are related to gang activity. Retired APD […]

  • Sports

    UAA volleyball says ‘Aloha’ this week

    by Dave Goldman on Aug 23, 23:23

    When most people say “I’m going to Hawaii,” it means a vacation, but this week, when the University of Alaska Anchorage volleyball goes to Hawaii, it’ll be a business trip. The UAA Seawolves, ranked 14, will travel to Oahu for three matches beginning Thursday night at Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie. That match will air on GCI Channel 124 […]

  • News

    Frantic rescue effort after devastating quake hits Italy

    by CBS/AP on Aug 23, 21:27

    Last Updated Aug 24, 2016 10:13 AM EDT AMATRICE, Italy – A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with at least 73 people killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors. The toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets […]

  • News

    Wasilla man dies in crash near Chickaloon

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 23, 21:21

    A Wasilla man died Monday afternoon after his vehicle collided with another vehicle on the Glenn Highway. Alaska State Troopers arrived at the scene of the crash at mile 94 near Chickaloon around 4 p.m. Matanuska-Susitna Borough EMS also responded, and pronounced one of the drivers involved, 31-year-old Joshua Campbell, dead at the scene, according […]

  • News

    Smashburger adds to South Anchorage development

    by Heather Hintze on Aug 23, 21:10

    Not one, but two new burger joints opened in Anchorage in just one week. BurgerFi expanded to a second location in East Anchorage on Monday. Alaska’s first Smashburger will host its grand opening on Wednesday. Owner Mark Larson said he chose the location across from Cabela’s on 100th Avenue and C Street because he wants […]

  • News

    State considers whether to privatize Alaska Psychiatric Institute

    by Lauren Maxwell on Aug 23, 20:52

    It’s no secret that the State of Alaska is looking to save money any way it can. One question legislators are asking is whether it would be cheaper for a private company to run the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API), the state’s only public psychiatric hospital. Randall Burns, the director of behavioral health for the Alaska Department […]

  • News

    Advocacy groups concerned after lawmaker shows support for convicted child molester

    by Liz Raines on Aug 23, 20:45

    Child advocacy groups are responding to one lawmaker’s perceived support for a man convicted of sexually abusing his 11-year-old foster daughter. Juneau Rep. Cathy Muñoz has asked a Superior Court judge to reconsider sentencing in the case of Thomas Jack Jr, who Muñoz describes as a family friend. The state has requested a sentence of 49 […]

  • News

    Disaster mitigation begins along Matanuska River

    by Shannon Ballard on Aug 23, 19:54

    Disaster mitigation work began on Tuesday for a stretch of the Matanuska River facing a severe, ongoing erosion problem. Truckloads of rock came between the rushing river’s eroding bank and the busy Old Glenn Highway. When Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration on Monday night, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) immediately initiated […]