Public Testimony Given on Proposed Housing for Mentally Ill
ANCHORAGE - There was another step in the process today that could transform a Spenard Hotel into long term housing for the mentally ill. Members of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board took public testimony on the Long House Project.
The plan is to convert the hotel into supervised apartments for up to fifty mentally ill adults. Both the Spenard and Turnagain Community Councils have expressed concern over the proposal and questioned the location of the project in a residential neighborhood.
But supporters of the project say its location is a key part of helping people with severe mental illness fit into society.
“It’s about a sense of belonging,” said John Sperbeck, of Anchorage Mental Health Services, the group that wants to buy the hotel and transform it into apartments. “If you feel like you are an outcast or you are stigmatized, then you don’t feel like you are part of the community, and that's really what we are trying to avoid.”
Sperbeck says his agency currently helps house up to 200 people in locations all over town and that placing them in a single building will give them better access to services.
Testimony today was mixed, but Sperback promised to keep information flowing to community members, and that at least one other public hearing will be held. He said the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board has not yet made a final decision on whether to fund the Long House Project.