Cruel & Uncaring: Anchorage's Homeless Sleep in Parking Lots, And Wrapped In Tarps In Their Wheelchairs

  Anchorage In Winter (Journal File Folder)  Rural People Who Go To Anchorage To Buy Goods & Services Often See The Town As Cold & I...


Anchorage In Winter (Journal File Folder) 

Rural People Who Go To Anchorage To Buy Goods & Services Often See The Town As Cold & Insensitive. Maybe Rural People Have A Point 

This feeling about the city is reinforced when watching Anchorage's response to homeless people in recent weeks on KTUU. It reached a culmination October 5th, as city police swarmed into makeshift parking lots to tow away homeless people's vehicles in the pouring rain as the they stood by helplessly. 

Six Months Into An Experiment In Abandonment, Anchorage's Homeless Face Winter 

On May 1st, 2023, the city of Anchorage closed down the Sullivan Arena and homeless people were tossed out into the snowdrifts of spring, to try to make it for themselves outside. An anonymous Good Samaritan had offered them small tents, so they could find shelter that night. 

At first, the homeless people of Anchorage seemed optimistic. Within a few days, they had begun to set up impromptu encampments off the wet and muddy sidewalks. People in wheelchairs – some legless – were pushed along the street (sometimes even through the street, along with passing cars) by the only people they could count on. 

...Other homeless people.


As summer unfolded, the homeless people of Alaska took up residence in parks, along roads, and – for safety reasons – down along the mudflats below the Coastal Trail, where they could build fires and watch the murky waters of Cook Inlet ebb and flow in peace during the long days of summer. It seemed almost like a campout. 

By the time the hit musical "Hamilton" came to Alaska, many homeless people were gathering every evening in the Town Park near the Performing Arts Center. On balmy midsummer evenings, they'd sit there in the park, cultivating convivial friendships with each other, calling out cheerfully to patrolling cops, and enjoying the moment. They mingled with people headed into the expensive Broadway show. It didn't seem so bad. 


Then, as fall approached, the shopping carts they pushed were getting more full, with the accumulation of the things they'd picked up over the summer. Homeless people all over town took all their worldly goods along with them, everywhere: wet clothes, an occasional suitcase, stuffed plastic bags. It was a very public humiliation. Apparently the hidden tents back in the woods, away from prying eyes, that had been the hallmark of homelessness in Anchorage a decade ago didn't exist now. Now it seemed like a free-for-all. And everything needed to be guarded. 

It was beginning to get cold, and some homeless people began gathering up twigs and sticks from Anchorage's decorative street-side trees, for kindling and a warm fire they intended to build – somewhere – during the night. They stuffed the sticks on top of their worldly  belongings in their shopping carts, down into their damp blankets and wet jackets, and whatever else they had gathered during the summer and needed to stand guard over. 

By early October, near Duluth Trading Company and the Goodwill Store on Old Seward Highway, a small group clustered under some tiny trees at the end of the huge parking lot, sleeping there every day, wrapped in blankets on the tarmac. Sitting around and talking. Their clothes and gear and plastic bags full of necessities were arrayed alongside them. They used the cement bumpers fringing the lot as pillows. 

It was getting cold. On the night of October 4th, as the sun set, people were still pushing their shopping carts up and down 15th Street.  A man, wrapped in a blue plastic tarp, settled down for the night beside the busy highway, his cart pulled up beside him next to a city bench as traffic whizzed by. Often, people slept on those benches during the summer. But he couldn't. He was too disabled to move to the bench. It was hard to imagine how he had even gotten there. Now, all alone, he was about to tuck in for a night's sleep. He slumped upright in his wheelchair and pulled the tarp up over his head. 

When morning came on October 5th, it was raining, and it rained all day, making deep pools of black water at every intersection in the city. This was the day Anchorage police started towing away homeless people's vehicles at a big camp across town. 


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