ANCHORAGE - Owners of downtown businesses say the incidents of vandalism and harassment by homeless inebriates are on the rise... and they need help to stop them.
According to a city study on homelessness conducted in Anchorage shelters this past January, about 300 chronic inebriates were identified as homeless.
That population is being blamed by a group of Fairview businesses for an escalating number of disturbances that are scaring customers and employees away from small businesses in the neighborhood. But Paul Fuhs, the executive director of the Fairview Business Association, said it’s a problem for businesses in neighborhoods all over the city.
In a presentation to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Fuhs said the homelessness issue hurts the entire city, affecting local businesses, emergency services, health care, and tourism. He was calling on local businesses to coordinate their efforts—and their advocacy—to create a real solution.
“We've met with all the social services agencies on this to ask for a coordinated approach,” Fuhs said. “One of the biggest things to say as a community, as Anchorage, is that we're going to join together to find a solution to this, and we're going to fix it. It's not acceptable.”
Among the solutions highlighted by Fuhs in his presentation: disrupting "congregation points" where inebriates gather; expanding housing-first options; reforming liquor store practices to limit the availability of certain spirits; increasing police enforcement; and defining “standards of acceptable behavior” to deal with violence.
Fuhs concluded his presentation by saying he’s working on the issue not only in the Anchorage chamber, but also bringing it to community councils, the mayor’s office, and the Anchorage Assembly. He also indicated that the city's tax revenue from alcohol sales could be a potential source of funding. He also said he’ll look to the governor, and the legislature, for support.