Alaska budget cuts may lead to more homeless in camps, cars

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – State budget cuts could mean an increase in the number of homeless people in Anchorage living outside, officials said.

Vetoes of homeless services funding by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy may force more people to live in camps and cars, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

Dunleavy last month vetoed 182 line items equaling $444 million in cuts to the state operating budget. The cuts reduced support for homeless programs by 85%, from $14.1 million to $2.6 million, the newspaper reported.

Most of Anchorage’s homeless population has been housed in various types of shelter, officials said.

The vetoes could increase the number of people outside from between 100 and 300 to between 800 and 1,000 over the next 12 months.

The cuts could also affect children, pregnant women, elderly, sick, disabled, and seriously mentally ill people, service providers said.

Anchorage should raise the money to fill the gap in homelessness programs, while also seeking help from private donors, Dunleavy said.

The city is trying to find buildings that meet emergency shelter requirements, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said.

Public outcry over camps and visible homelessness has grown, but now “camp abatement” will need to end because there is nowhere for those people to go, Berkowitz said.

“There’s a brutality to these cuts,” Berkowitz said. “They did it without talking to anybody or analyzing what the consequences would be.”

Organizations are reducing staff and discussing which clients to turn away, said Jasmine Boyle, executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Life in our community is going to look radically different,” Boyle said. “There will be very fragile young and old people who will need our compassion and our kindness.”

Information from: Anchorage Daily News,

AP-WF-07-22-19 1427GMT