Anchorage Urges "Tent Cities" As Housing Solution. It Didn't Work The First Time In 1915...

Failed Template Of 1915 Tent City Resurrected By Anchorage As Hundreds Of People Forced Into Greenbelts & Parks  Tent City at Ship Creek...

Failed Template Of 1915 Tent City Resurrected By Anchorage As Hundreds Of People Forced Into Greenbelts & Parks 

Tent City at Ship Creek, July, 1915. (Photo, Library of Congress) 

The View From Rural Alaska, Where We Know What "Lack Of Government" Looks Like 


Tent cities are a big part of the Alaska story. In 1915 the place that would one day become "Anchorage" was a city made of white tents. It was inhabited by railroad workers, and was located down on Ship Creek. Before this time, Ship Creek had been known by the Dena'ina as "Stickleback Mouth" and was an important fishing place. 

The Alaska Railroad's sprawling settlement destroyed the Dena'ina people's clear, cool, generous waters of Stickleback Mouth, forever.

The railroad's little impromptu settlement, the Tent City of 1915, was opened up in April. Two thousand men lived there. The Tent City only lasted four months. By August, lovely little Ship Creek was so contaminated with feces, urine and garbage – so out of control and haunted with serious diseases – that the encampment was abruptly shut down and workers were moved up to the top of the hill, where the core of Anchorage now stands. 

It had not been a good idea.

Yet, on May 2nd, 2023, over 100 years later, hundreds of people began setting up new and similar tent cities all over Anchorage, following Ship Creek's  failed template. The city that grew from the disastrous 1915 failures has not learned its lesson.

Anchorage has caused an emergency with the resurgence and urging, once again, of large, messy, filthy unmonitored tent cities, even though it's now the 21st century. 

After 7 months of providing minimal indoor housing for the homeless at the Sullivan Arena, the city abruptly threw most of the people who were sheltering there out into the mud and the winds of a late spring.

For many years, homeless people have lived in the woods of Anchorage, of course. But they lived in small enclaves, not out in the open. They were  hiding from the city. 

Until this week, camping was heavily discouraged in Anchorage. Until this week, the city hunted the homeless down under a program they called "abatement." As late as last year, in 2022 in the middle of the winter, Anchorage city park workers were searching out camps, stapling notices to trees warning the inhabitants they had to move in 10 days, and then destroying whatever clothes and personal goods that hadn't been moved to another spot. Over the years, Anchorage media has chronicled the relentless hunting down of the homeless in the woods of Anchorage. 

Destroying woodland camps was known as "abatement."  Now, though, because the city has absolutely no alternatives for the homeless – no Sullivan Arena or shelters – there won't be any "abating." Instead, the city is encouraging people to set up camps. 

Homeless people in Anchorage have been given tents at city facilities and sent into the surrounding forest. It's only been a few days, but hundreds of people evicted from Sullivan Arena have set up large tent cities (once again, as in 1915) without places to defecate or urinate, or throw trash. And without drinking water. 

They've been forced – even urged by the municipality – to set up their tent cities, unmonitored and unprotected in Alaska's many city parks and greenbelts: Cuddy Park, scrub lots, woods along the trails, or even down on Ship Creek once again. 

There are reports in the media that many homeless people are sticking around their winter home, the Sullivan Arena, in the woods nearby. 

On May 3rd, 2023, it began to snow. 


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