Second day of hearings on property purchases for homeless services ends without vote

The Best Western Golden Lion Hotel, which the city hopes to turn into a drug and alcohol treatment center. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The second straight day of testimony on Anchorage’s plan to purchase four properties for homeless services and drug treatment ended without a vote at an Assembly meeting on Wednesday evening. 

Dozens gathered to testify against the $22.5 million proposal, which the city’s administration says is necessary to stem an impending homeless crisis caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Testimony lasted until midnight on Wednesday, with some residents not having had a chance to speak.

The ordinance would approve a purchase of four properties with money allocated from a recent energy utility deal as well as CARES Act funding. 

Currently, the emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena is housing about 240 people experiencing homelessness, but the city says that the solution is temporary. With shelter capacity at current shelters reduced due to COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, advocates say there will need to be more capacity once the lease on the Sullivan ends.

Residents testifying in opposition spoke about concerns over lack of public engagement during the process, unclear plans about how the facilities will be used, and fear about declining property values around the new centers. 

But some advocates pointed out that the plan for Golden Lion Hotel is to set up a drug and alcohol treatment center that would be open for anybody experiencing addiction. They say that other treatment centers around town that have minimal community impact. 

The proposal will now be heard at a third day of testimony on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m.