Homeless Man Protests on City Hall Steps
John Martin set up camp nearly a week ago and vows to remain there until he can discuss the city’s homeless plan with a municipality official.
If you have driven past city hall in downtown Anchorage in the past few days, you may have noticed John Martin. He is staging a protest against the city’s homeless plan, or as he says, its lack thereof.
But this isn’t his first public protest—Nearly two years ago, he was camping in front of Abbott Loop Community Church to raise awareness about the city's growing homeless problem.
With a history of multiple criminal convictions, Martin is no stranger to run-ins with law enforcement. However, he said his past doesn’t keep him from protesting what he feels is wrong.
John Martin has been camped out since June 23 and plans to stay on the stoop until he and others living on the street are heard.
“The way to bring change is to bring awareness,” said Martin, who is staging his protest exactly eight floors below the office of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Martin said when the homeless are kicked out of the illegal camp sites in the woods, they will then head into the city to dwell in laundry rooms, and under stairwells and building outcrops.
“They need to be warm and they need to be dry if they are going to survive, so when we go in and take their tents and beddings, in effect, we are killing them,” he said.
Martin insists that he has tried to talk to city officials, including the mayor, for the past two years but his plea has fallen on deaf ears.
Sarah Erkmann, Mayor Sullivan’s spokeswoman, said that, “Mayor Sullivan says he has not had any contact with him [John Martin] to discuss his concerns.” Martin said he briefly caught up with the mayor between the front door and his office but the mayor wasn’t interested in speaking with him.
What’s Martin’s temporary solution? “Just don't tear down the tents until you have a plan in place, and now it’s two years later—still no plan in place.”
But city officials said there is a plan already in effect that offers outreach to campers to get them coordinated with housing, employment and medical care. However, Martin said that isn't enough for those with serious alcohol problems.
If homeless people go to the rescue mission, Martin said they must first submit to a Breath Alcohol Concentration test, BrAC, before they go in, “which means they can't eat, they can't sleep in there, they can't even get a blanket when it’s cold.”
Just how long does John Martin plan to stay on the city hall steps? As long as it takes to make a difference, he said.
Anchorage police said that as long as Martin is legally protesting and abides by the law that he is allowed to stay on the steps of city hall. However, if he were to set up a tent, Martin could be removed for illegal camping.