This month marks the beginning of cleanup season for Anchorage crews working to clear homeless camps, with additional municipal funds budgeted for the task this year.

Anchorage Homeless Coordinator Nancy Burke said for the last two weeks crews have targeted camps off the Chester Creek trail in an area that runs from the Seward Highway to A Street and also includes sections of trail near Valley of the Moon Park.

This is the first summer crews are using a zone system for camp abatement, meaning they can clean up large areas as opposed to individual tents. Burke said notices must be posted giving campers 10 days to vacate the area. She said camps that spring up after the 10-day notice is posted can still be removed, but the municipality is obligated to store their belongings.

Anchorage Assembly members budgeted an additional $150,000 to clean up camps this summer, which has allowed the city to hire more people to do the job. Burke said it's also allowed them to pay to store campers' belongings when necessary.

But there is one thing, according to Burke, which could slow the abatement process. She said courts upheld a law that says people can't be forced from homeless camps if there isn't a place for them to go. At the end of April, Anchorage lost 100 shelter beds after the contract for Bean's Cafe to be used as an overflow shelter ended. Burke said the city recognizes that as a problem.

"We have added a tool that now polls the shelters every night and asks whether or not they have capacity," said Burke. "And that's something that will guide our abatement efforts this summer."

Burke encouraged people to report homeless camps on the municipality's website, adding that residents are not permitted to do clean ups themselves. She said the city hopes to include a new map available online early next week which will show residents which camps have been documented, which have been cleaned and where crews are headed next.

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