ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Nearly two weeks ago, dozens of homeless people were moved from the Sullivan Arena mass homeless shelter to Centennial Campground after the Sullivan Arena closed in late June. .
Many of these people still live at the campsite while others stay in hotels, shelters and other dedicated spaces. Some people at the campground talked about their experience of living in the newly redeveloped campground and having to take it all in from day to day.
When the campground was first established as a designated camping area for Anchorage’s homeless population, the Beans Café came to help and provide food. Previously, those living in the camp received one designated meal per day. Now, Beans Café has decided to expand these services to provide three meals a day. Although she provided the $2,200 needed to feed everyone at the campsite each day, Beans Café CEO Lisa Sauder says she’s ready to continue doing so by any means necessary.
“We hope this helps people stabilize. If they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to have their next meal, what it’s going to be or how they’re going to eat,” Sauder said. “You have to have food and shelter before you can worry about a job or anything, so you know, taking care of that for people, we hope that helps them to stabilize and get back on your feet faster.”
Marclita Williams is one of the Anchorage residents living at the campground. Williams and others expressed their immense gratitude.
“It was a blessing in my book,” Williams said. “A great blessing.”
Nearby bears have become an unexpected obstacle for those helping facilitate the homeless campground in Centennial. Recently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game killed four bears that were lured into the campsite, likely looking for food. However, Centennial Campground resident Jimmie Hartley believes that as long as Centennial residents keep their tents clean and make noise, the bears shouldn’t be a concern.
“When people come here and they’re lazy to keep their camp clean and their garbage is what brought the bears here. They’re smart,” Jimmie said.
Williams said bears aren’t the main cause of disturbance. Williams believes the main disturbance is teenagers sneaking into the campsite at night.
“Messing around and trying to steal things from people, take whatever they can take from people,” Williams said. “When they work hard, earn money and their years and their lives to maintain what little they have.”
Mayor Dave Bronson briefly addressed the subject of camp repurposing at the July 12 Anchorage Assembly meeting. Bronson said everyone who stayed there received canisters of bears and noted that all decisions regarding bears are made by the Department of Fish and Game, not the mayor’s office.
Bronson also said his administration is very dedicated to ending homelessness in Anchorage and its number one goal is to provide shelter, services and permanent housing.
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