Anchorage Assembly tweaks rules on abating illegal homeless camps

Anchorage Assembly members debate a resolution on SB91, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Assembly members debate a resolution on SB91, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly has shortened the amount of time from when police serve notice that a homeless camp is illegal to when city employees are allowed to dismantle the camp.

The Assembly voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday night to drop the number of days after the notice is served from 15 to 10.

The camp abatement policy is often cited by frustrated property owners and trail users, who say it takes too long between when an illegal camp is reported and when it is ultimately cleaned up.

Some of those who testified Tuesday to the Assembly see the recent change as a small step that will not make much of a difference.

Allen Williams told Assembly members that tightening the eviction timeline by a few days doesn’t fix problems for either property owners or for people experiencing homelessness.

“When you’re chasing the homeless from campsite to campsite, you’re not really doing anything unless you give them someplace where they can go,” Williams said during public comments.

Assembly members agree the rule-change is hardly a silver bullet.

As the proposal has been modified in recent weeks, language was added pointing to more comprehensive efforts undertaken by city officials to find long-term housing options.

An American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson said the organization is reviewing the new rule before deciding whether to challenge its legality.

In the past, the ACLU and other critics have alleged that banning camping outright on public lands without sufficient housing alternatives amounts to unconstitutionally criminalizing homelessness.

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