Derelict cabin in Fairview is no longer a magnet for trouble
When it comes to the homeless, many Anchorage residents are torn between feeling sympathetic and, in the case of one Fairview neighborhood, feeling afraid.
But near the corner of East 9th Avenue and Denali Street, there are feelings of relief. After pressure from the city, Fairview Community Council and neighbors, a crew cleared land around a derelict cabin at the owner’s expense. The trees and other foliage gave squatters the cover to drink and fight, as well as leave piles of trash to accumulate.
Christopher Constant, a former president of the Fairview Neighborhood Council and longtime community activist, says it’s been a 2-year battle to drive them away.
“They were going into the bathroom, where they were sleeping inside,” Constant said. “Just really befouling the space.”
Constant says the building’s owner had no interest in tearing it down, so he and other neighbors boarded up the windows and other openings.
“That’s not a solution in the end. That’s just a whack-a-mole problem,” Constant said.
The city posted eviction notices and also closed off openings in the building, but the squatters would return, hidden by the trees and brush, to pry away the boards and move back in.
One of Constant’s neighbors, Katie Pekkonen, said the problem also spread to a storage shed near her house, where she would find people passed out.
Pekkonen says her daughter, now 11, first complained when she was 9. She asked why the neighborhood had to be so scary. Pekkonen says her daughter was right.
“She should be able to walk to school, walk to her friend’s house, without being scared.”
Removing all of the brush surrounding the house and hauling out the piles of trash that had accumulated seems to have done the job — at least for now.
Constant says, on the one hand, he’s happy, but he worries the squatters will probably move on to another neighborhood and become someone else’s problem.
He says people need to rise up and take back the community – and that includes places like Town Square.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, I walked through there,” Constant said. “I saw someone actually shooting heroin.”
Alex Galaktionoff says he’s lived on the streets, off and on, for about 30 years and says the homeless scene is changing, with more and more teenagers.
“The streets are not safe for them,” Galaktionoff said. “It’s not even safe for me either.”
The mayor’s office has launched an ambitious plan to clean-up homeless camps.
Capt. Bill Miller, a longtime veteran of the Anchorage Police Department, said the public should report problems to APD’s dispatch at 907-786-8900. Later this year, there will be a website available, as well.
Miller says this centralized reporting will help the department get a better handle on the problem, but he also urged the public to be patient. The team investigates reports once a week and then must provide campers 15 days notice before evicting them.
Miller and the city’s homeless coordinator, Nancy Burke, explain the process in a Frontiers Web Extra: http://bit.ly/1Tt5O0q
They are also guests on this Sunday’s Frontiers program, which airs at 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on KTVA Channel 11.
Editor’s note: Corrections to this story have been made to clarify who paid for the property clean up at East 9th Avenue and Denali Street, and Christopher Constant’s role with the Fairview Community Council.
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