• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
News Alert: 2016 Iditarod ceremonial start, restart announced - Read More
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

  • Politics

    Bill allowing easier access to heroin overdose drugs passes final committee

    by Liz Raines on Feb 12, 16:24

    Senate Bill 23, a bill to increase access to heroin overdose antidote drugs, passed it’s final committee in the Alaska House unanimously Friday after making it’s way through the Senate last year. The bill grants immunity to those prescribing, providing or administering an opioid overdose drug. If the bill becomes law, pharmacies could legally dispense […]

  • News

    Contentious Eagle River road project won’t fix congestion problem, group says

    by Eric Ruble on Feb 12, 14:36

    One two-lane road — Yosemite Drive — leads into and out of Eagle River High School and the Eagle Pointe subdivision. During the morning and afternoon, traffic on the road can back up more than 1,000 feet. The road is about to be rebuilt, but the Chugach Birchwood Eagle River Rural Roads Service Area (CBERRRSA) […]

  • News

    Underwater fiber-optic cable repair may disrupt Southeast cable, internet service

    by KTVA Web Staff on Feb 12, 13:45

    Residents in Sitka and Angoon might not be able to binge-watch their favorite shows Sunday evening. General Communication, Inc. (GCI) announced Friday that Sitka and Angoon customers should expect service interruptions due to recent damage to the undersea fiber-optic cable that serves the Sitka and Angoon areas. A release from the company states services may […]

  • DayBreak

    Anchorage apparel brand highlights everyday experiences in Alaska

    by Sierra Starks on Feb 12, 13:03

    Brett Connor’s new shop, located at the corner of Spenard Road and Fireweed Lane, is a world apart from his humble beginnings. Connor got his start designing and screenprinting the artwork for his brand, Hulin Alaskan Design, in a shed. “There happened luckily to be a little shed kind of building detached from the house […]

  • News

    Research finds harmful algae toxins in Alaska marine mammals

    by Dan Joling / AP on Feb 12, 12:51

    A study led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists says toxins from harmful ocean algae were detected at surprising levels in samples of more than 900 Alaska marine mammals. NOAA Fisheries research biologist Kathi Lefebvre says the agency looked at feces, urine and stomach contents of 13 marine mammal species collected over nine years […]

  • Weather

    Snowless streak in Anchorage approaching record number of days

    by Rachael Penton on Feb 12, 12:20

    It’s no secret that it has been a slim snow season in Anchorage. Now, we’re beginning to approach a record number of days without the white stuff. Anchorage hasn’t seen any measurable snowfall for the last 28 days, as of Thursday. Measurable snowfall is defined as one-tenth of an inch (0.1”) of snow or more. The […]

  • DayBreak

    What’s in a rose?: The meaning behind your Valentine’s Day flowers

    by Sierra Starks on Feb 12, 11:29

    The team at Bagoy’s Florist & Home is planning to trim, snip and place 35,000 flower stems in preparation for their busiest holiday of the year. “It’s kind of like preparing for the Super Bowl,” said Chanda Mines, the flower shop’s owner. “The closer we get to the holiday, the more intense it gets.” Game […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: DJ Spencer Lee

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 12, 11:10

    It’s a Valentine’s Day event for the whole family. Baby Loves Disco is back, and the Valentine’s Day edition is expected to be better than ever. The event’s organizer Spencer Shroyer, also known as DJ Spencer Lee, joined Daybreak Friday where he was spinning some love-inspired beats. The event is for parents and kids who […]