What will happen to the homeless Alaskans when the Municipality of Anchorage closes the Sullivan Arena shelter?
Sullivan Arena played an important role in housing people during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Municipality of Anchorage opened up its arena and ice rink to the homeless population. The 32,000-square-foot arena became available for those homeless people who needed a place to sleep, wash up and eat meals. The arena opened 24 hours a day and provided a safe and clean environment for those without homes. This is just one of the many ways the municipality had been working to keep its residents safe and healthy during this pandemic.
The municipality will close Sullivan Arena and the sheltering operation for the homeless Alaskans effective June 30, 2022. The decision comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the municipality has begun to decline. The residents of Sullivan have been given notice and the community partners are working rapidly to identify housing options for individuals based on their needs.
The Sullivan was never intended to be a long term homeless shelter. The building was never designed to be a mass shelter and the residents of Anchorage made it clear to them that they don’t want to remain that way. The administration has been working closely with community partners and the Assembly through a facilitated working group to develop an exit strategy that is comprehensive and sustainable.
The municipality also clearly states that they will not kick people out on the street. Many providers or health departments are stepping up and working to place people in housing. They are all working closely together to ensure ample opportunities will be provided for those seeking housing.
In addition, the case managers at the Sullivan are actively working with residents to develop individual plans and find the right path forward that will work for them. They are working on their goal of transferring 10 individuals per day from the Sullivan into housing options including moving folks to the guest house. The plan is to scale up the guest house to house between 130-260 clients. Catholic Social Services also is planning to provide housing for 83 medically fragile and senior individuals. More rooms are coming online and a lot of organizations are all stepping up and offering housing to the homeless Alaskans. They are all united to solve the problem for the Sullivan residents. Will there be enough emergency shelter space and permanent housing available in Anchorage? That question remains to be seen as agencies work quickly to provide shelter.