Numbers drop at downtown sleep-off center
The number of people using the Anchorage Safety Center is way down according to the Municipal Manager Steve Ashman, who oversees the program.
The number of intakes at the facility, formerly known as the Anchorage Sleep-Off Center, was 16,197 in 2017, down from 22,326 in 2015. That's a drop of roughly 26 percent.
Nancy Burke, Anchorage Homeless Coordinator, said a number of factors are at play, but a big one is the recent availability of more housing.
"And particularly supported housing," said Burke. "That helps people with very high addictions step down from those addictions, become stable and be in the community."
Ashman said in the last two years, there have been three new housing projects that follow the "housing first model". Places where the most vulnerable street people can find a place to live, drink if they have to, and also get help. He said the movement is helping to keep people off the streets.
"They're not at the Safety Center very often, once in a while, but not like they were prior to going into housing first," said Ashman.
Burke said other factors may include Medicaid expansion that increased the number of people who could get help for mental health and substance abuse issues. More money is being spent on trying to resolve homeless issues; Burke said agencies are working together to find people from a list of "most vulnerable" and get them the services they need.
"It's a whole system," said Burke. "Moving people from camps to safe locations where we can identify their needs, getting into housing. It all goes together, these pieces are related and the system is moving in the right direction."
Ashman said fewer numbers at the Safety Center sometimes means they have more employees than they need to monitor clients. He said the municipality has re-negotiated the $2.1 million contract it has with Securitas, the company that runs the safety program so that workers also monitor the nightly overflow shelter at Bean's Cafe. He said the city is also experimenting with putting fewer safety vans on the road.
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