(I was going to publish this as feedback to the commentary by Cristopher Constant at Alaska Dispatch in the article "Don't let nonprofits turn Fairview into a social services experiment" but decided that the scope of the issue merits a blog post on my part and that my opinion may be strong enough to ruffle some feathers of people I consider friends and an abuse of the trust placed in me as a member of the wider readership and management of those at Alaska Dispatch, so to spare them some measure of uncomfortableness at the prospect of publishing feedback that may be longer than the original article, I chose to publish it on my own blog instead.... my space, my nickel and all that. Only I can be held responsible for my own opinions.)
Christopher, I know you and respect your opinion on many issues, but please allow me to add my perspective as someone who lives near this project but perhaps lives in an even worse area for experiencing the plight of the inebriated homeless -- downtown Anchorage.
I live one block away from the People Mover Transit Center. My living room window literally overlooks it and the Downtown Inlet Inn, one of our hot spots for crime, violence and alcohol abuse. Many times this site is favored by some of the 'homeless' who are fortunate enough to be able to pool their money together so that a group or groups of them can get together to party. In fact, at this very moment, the Anchorage Police Mobile Command Center motor home is parked outside of the Downtown Inlet Inn dealing with who knows what sort of issue. This site is well known for the amount of police and paramedic calls that it generates practically every day. The situation for the homeless downtown is just as dire if not even more dire than Fairview. Frankly I would welcome a guided and directed program to have bought out the Downtown Inlet Inn. Then perhaps someone would actually be around to direct a program to help get these misguided individuals back to a more useful and productive life. Unfortunately that isn't happening for our neighborhood.
You think a lot of the drunk and homeless hang out in Fairview? You should come down and spend the day at the transit center with me. No matter where they camp or where they flop, eventually they all converge here, in various states of disarray and drunkenness. Often times during their walks around downtown they happen to end up in the narrow alleyway between my apartment building and the administrative office of the Holy Family Cathedral next door. Smoking weed, smoking crack, pissing, shitting, sleeping, assaulting, raping, drinking then leaving their empty bottles behind and yes, sometimes even dying. Right under my second story window.
It should be obvious from my tone that I do not approve of their own lifestyle choices. Many times I consider that they are not victims because of the idea that they are doing it to themselves in a world filled with free choices. And yet, in this city, were they to seek treatment for their problem, there are few place for them to go. Especially places that give them long term residential solutions where they can be held as responsible adults and actively participate in their own recovery from their circumstances. One imagines that there will be a guided and directed program to help them recover rather than allowing it to become a 'frat house' type of environment, filled with continuous partying and constant lawlessness. One would imagine that there would be reasonable rules and regulations for them to follow in order to retain residency and that if they violate those rules they would not be allowed to stay. I freely admit that I do not know all the details, but I think my assumptions are quite reasonable. This would be far more of an acceptable solution to the problem of homeless inebriates than what I have next door. In my neighborhood there are no solutions, only more temptations and troubles to compound their problems. I envy that your neighborhood is given the opportunity to try to help solve some of those problems and would wish that someone like RuralCAP could come and do the same with the Downtown Inlet Inn as opposed to what we now have.
I would like to think that it would be best for the mental health of the entire community to embrace such a program not only in your neighborhood but in ALL neighborhoods. From a semi-outsider's perspective I would feel proud to be chosen as the pilot test site for precisely this sort of treatment program. With the recent addition of the Copper River Seafoods Campus next door to the old Red Roof Inn site RuralCAP has selected, I would think it perfectly suited to provide jobs and an alternative to the dead end lifestyle choices many homeless inebriates are making in Anchorage. It may just be the godsend that many need to return some dignity and provide a way back to a more traditional means and method of existence, especially for native Alaskans who are currently experiencing life as homeless inebriates. I would think it would be best if ALL neighborhoods took this from being a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issue and embraced it in ALL of our neighborhoods as a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) issue. Why? Because the homeless are dying in our streets at alarming rates and despite their problems and issues, we ALL need to seek solutions to help them.
Instead of looking at this as a blight upon your neighborhood, I would hope that instead it turns into a wildly successful program of what could be done if enough people had the compassion to actually do something rather than decry this effort as yet another NIMBY issue. Think possibilities and compassionate action rather than maintaining a mindset that it will only be detrimental to your neighborhood. How proud would Fairview be if it turned into a very successful model for all sorts of similar buildings around Anchorage? You could take a small measure of pride by rightfully claiming that the site that turned an Anchorage-wide problem into something positive was first located in Fairview. And that would be a wonderful thing for all of Anchorage.
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