An Inside Look at Life in Anchorage’s Housing First Project, Karluk Manor (KTVA.com exclusive)
Life is proven fragile for chronic inebriates, on and off the streets
“He slipped and fell down the stairway, but I’d slip and fall, too,” the police lieutenant said.
Another woman, 40-year-old Lena Joseph, had been found dead one morning last summer after spending the night drinking with her boyfriend under a container trailer in a Midtown mall parking lot.
She was also smiling in the picture in the police report, dark hair streaked with gray falling loosely around her face and framing a broad smile. Her BAC was measured at .726 when she died.
“If she lit a cigarette, she would have blown up,” Parker said.
For others, it doesn’t take that much, but police said alcoholism often goes hand-in-hand with life on the street. Standing in the early afternoon sunshine in front of Karluk Manor, Darlene Kunayuk said she’s been drinking Black Velvet since she woke up that morning with a pounding headache and queasy stomach in the Anchorage Safety Center, where the Anchorage Safety Patrol takes public inebriates to sleep off their drunkenness.
She shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her oversized red ski jacket, zipped over an army green raincoat that fell nearly to her knees. A green knit hat with earflaps and the word “Alaska” embroidered in chunky white letters across the front was pulled low over her bangs, and she hunched her shoulders against the slight breeze blowing up from the inlet
“I was drinking with my friends at the soup kitchen and I ended up at sleep-off,” she said, recounting the night before, when she blacked out and was picked up off the street by the Anchorage Safety Patrol. Kunayuk said she didn’t know how she ended up on the cement floor of the of the safety center with a BAC of .300, but Monday morning she said she had rejoined her friends in front of Bean’s Café for a hot lunch and a little hair of the dog.
It’s a cycle Karluk Manor administrators said points to bigger problems, traumatic histories and sometimes-troubled childhoods. Rocking back and forth in the snow, blue jeans tucked into her snow boots, Kunayuk said she’s lived through some traumas of her own.
Since she moved to Anchorage from her home in the rural Alaska village of Kiana almost 13 years ago, she’s bounced back and forth between shelters, street corners and hotel rooms.
Her 15-year-old son had taken his own life several years back, followed by her older brother, who she said hung himself while working at a contracting job in Kobuk. “He was just two years older than me,” she said.
With slurred words, she said the belt had been so tight around his neck it turned his face black and made blood trickle out of his eyes and nose, making it nearly impossible for rescuers to identify him.
Now, she’s living by herself on the Anchorage streets, trying to avoid an ex-boyfriend she said tried to kill her on more then one occasion. “He said he would slit my throat,” she said, recounting one drunken fight a few weeks ago. She said he held a knife to her neck and she had leaned into the blade, almost drawing blood. “I said, go ahead.”