City moves on cleaning up homeless camp in Fairview
A homeless camp in Fairview has been on the receiving end of negative attention from residents in the community, a property manager and a Lutheran church.
As you drive west on 15th Avenue, you can’t help but notice the cluster of tents pitched on a stretch of grass just past Central Lutheran Church near Cordova Street. At first glance, the tents and those that inhabit them seem harmless, but members of the community know otherwise.
“They have drug deals and thefts and parts of bicycles,” said security guard Antonio Anderson. “[They] take off one [part], put on the other [bicycle], so there’s all kinds of activity going on here.”
Anderson works for Weidner Apartment Homes, a property management company that maintains apartment complexes across North America. Anderson was assigned to the area near 15th and Cordova one week ago after fence lines around an empty lot owned by Weidner were being destroyed by the homeless living in the makeshift tent city.
“It’s an inconvenience issue and a public safety issue. It’s a public safety issue for bodily waste; it’s a public safety issue for drugs and theft,” Anderson explained. “It’s just regular people-- [they] just have issues and have nowhere to go."
The tents are on public land, but neighbors have been complaining about the garbage and human waste in the area. There are also concerns of trespassing, as members of the homeless camp reportedly go into neighboring backyards to shower off with water spigots attached to homes.
Nine days ago, the Anchorage Police Department served a 10-day notice to members of the camp. The Anchorage Municipality’s Homeless and Housing Coordinator, Nancy Burke, says that the 10-day notice is now required by law to allow members of the homeless camp to collect their belongings.
“We’re trying to use this as a process to motivate people to housing or look for other resources or family or connections so that they’re not camping in the municipality,” said Burke. “We don’t just want people picking up and moving down the path. We want them to be permanently housed.”
Burke says that 130 housing opportunities will become available in the Anchorage community over the next six months. In the interim, the municipality says there are a limited number of options for the homeless, but the 10-day notice allows caseworkers to get to know the people living in these camps and make a reference as to where they should go.
In the interim, it is a difficult situation for the community. In a Facebook post, Central Lutheran Church states that their "doors are open to those who are sober and RESPECTFUL”. Neighbors, however, want the homeless camp cleared out.
“It’s just the conflict that Anchorage is feeling as we bring on more housing options and we get social services that can address the needs of people out in the community-- or motivate people who are just not taking advantage of those opportunities to move someplace they can get those services,” said Burke.
One thing is certain, Friday will mark the tenth day of the 10-day notice. Burke says the camp will be cleaned up on Monday by Anchorage Parks and Recreation, and APD will assist if people refuse to leave. In terms of a long-term solution, Burke hopes that more housing options in the near future will help get the homeless off the streets. The challenge is convincing folks to take advantage of the opportunities.
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