City disposes of unclaimed items from cleaned-up homeless camps
The Municipality of Anchorage is calling a pilot program to store homeless people's belongings a success.
The program allows the city to abate homeless camps with just three days' notice as opposed to 10 days, as long as their belongings are collected and stored for 30 days. On Tuesday afternoon, the 30-day deadline was up and many of those items were thrown away.
The issue of storing homeless people's things has been an impediment to cleaning camps up quickly. But Anchorage homeless coordinator Nancy Burke said the pilot program showed it can be done.
"We want to make opportunities for people to move out of camping more prevalent," said Burke. "And we want to make it a little tougher for them to be camping in the community because of the negative impacts it has on everyone else."
On Sept. 21, city crews dismantled a large homeless camp near Spenard Road and Chester Creek. Items deemed salvageable were put in bins and taken to Solid Waste Service's Central Transfer Station in midtown, where they were put in large containers.
Burke said camp residents were informed where they could pick up their belongings as well as the deadline when the city intended to dispose of them. She said the information was posted and people who provided phone numbers to a city coordinator were called or texted with reminders.
"There were 12 people that were in the (camp) location that we identified, and about a third of them came back for their belongings," said Burke.
She said the city will analyze the data from the pilot program over the winter to determine things like how to prioritize camps that should receive a rapid cleanup response next summer and how much space might be necessary to store people's things. She said expanding the program next summer will likely require more manpower, including people to work at the storage facility.
Burke said Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department might also need to beef up its workforce if the city moves to clean up more camps within the tighter deadline.
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