Two top facilitators working with the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration on the plan to transition out of the mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena have stepped down from their roles.
Since August, Tom Barrett and Belinda Breaux had worked with the city’s Homeless Facilitated Collaborative Process to foster discussions and work between the Assembly and mayor as third-party facilitators.
In a letter to Assembly leaders and Bronson on Thursday, the two wrote, “the transparency, candor and ‘we are all in this together’ attitude that enabled that earlier progress has in our opinion broken down in recent months.”
Reached by phone Friday, Breaux declined to comment beyond the letter.
Her and Barrett’s departure comes as the city prepares to close the shelter at the Sullivan arena on June 30. The mayor’s plan has been criticized by homelessness advocates who question where the more than 200 people who are living at the arena shelter will go, since the new shelter is not scheduled to open until late fall.
In a statement about Barrett and Breaux stepping down, Bronson thanked the two for their work.
“The progress made in the past year on this issue is historic. Never before have so many people come together to address the homelessness crisis in Anchorage,” Bronson said. “The reality is that hundreds of new transitional housing units now exist that did not prior to the pandemic. All these steps have put us one step closer to getting a handle on this humanitarian crisis. They give me faith that despite vast political and ideological differences, we can address this community problem together.”
Assembly leadership issued a statement, too, thanking Breaux and Barrett for their work. Assembly vice-chair Chris Constant said there’s a lot more work to do and he criticized the mayor’s plan to continue clearing outdoor camps, questioning the availability of housing with the shelter closing.
“Combined with the potential unhousing of 150 individuals amid funding uncertainty for the Guest House, the legality of camp abatement while the mass care facility closes is a top concern to address,” Constant said. “If completed as proposed, the recent actions taken by the Mayor will put the Municipality at risk for another round of costly litigation.”
Officials for the mayor have said that they believe there will be adequate shelter capacity after the closure at the Sullivan, and the administration will continue clearing outdoor camps, according to city code.
Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage
Alaska Public Media
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