City cleans up homeless camp in Fairview
A homeless camp in Fairview that drew the ire of neighbors, as well as nearby apartment managers and a church, has been cleaned up by Anchorage Parks and Recreation.
Friday marked the final day of a 10-day advance notice period, during which Anchorage police alerted people camped out on municipal land near 15th Avenue and Cordova Street that they needed to collect their belongings and move elsewhere.
The area was turning into a tent city, with garbage, human waste, and stacks of bicycle parts spread from the municipal easement to the Central Lutheran Church’s property. Weidner Apartment Management security guard Antonio Anderson told KTVA that drugs deals were becoming commonplace.
Anchorage's housing and homeless services coordinator, Nancy Burke, says cleaning the camp up is one thing, but facilitating shelter for those in need is another.
“This is the problem we are working on,” Burke said. “Over the course of the next six months we have about 130 housing opportunities for people, so we’re outreaching to people, (trying) to get people qualified, figure out who’s right for which opportunity and really just motivate them to move.”
A 40-year-old man who identified himself as Shawn claims to have been the first to pitch a tent at the site, earlier this summer. He also said he’s motivated to get off the street.
“I’m waiting for work… but hard to get work from a tent, know what I mean?" he said.
Shawn says he wasn’t looking for trouble, but would rather live on the streets of Anchorage than return home to his village.
“(It was) just me and this other guy over here for the longest time,” Shawn said. “And then we get the occasional park goers and I don’t know if they started catching on... then it almost turned into tent city over here, know what I mean? (The site was) getting pretty wild and stuff like that. We had to kick a couple people out.”
Now everyone’s out. Ten municipal employees and a work team logged a total of 24 man-hours, removing around 600 pounds worth of material according to Parks and Recreation.
Shawn says he will find another place to stay. He also says he’s interested in some of the programs that the city offers, but in the interim, he’s concerned about surviving the day.
“It’s a rough town. You’re always missing something when you’re coming home,” Shawn said. “Someone’s (going) shopping through your stuff. That’s just how it goes so I don’t get too attached to things here in Fairview.”
His biggest motivation for turning things around after two and a half years on the street is what awaits the state in the upcoming months.
“Alaska winters are brutal man and it’s coming,” Shawn said. “I don’t want to stomach another one. So it’s time to go inside. Get back to work, you know?”
According to Burke, the city has options.
“A lot of the people that you find in the camps, there’s a very small percentage of people who are not going to participate,” Burke said. “It is a very small percentage though. If you speak to people, they are looking for opportunity.”
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