Anchorage Health Department said to be seeking militarization of Sullivan Arena

Anchorage Assembly Member Meg Zaletel sent an email to other members of the Assembly this morning and it’s a doozy because the email includes references to “drug sniffing dogs” and militarization of the Sullivan Arena!

In her email, Zaletel wrote that she had compiled a list of “issues and concerns” she had learned about the mass care situation at the Sullivan Arena and sent them off to the Bronson Administration through the facilitation group for them to address. Included in her email were her own questions and observations in bold.

Zaletel wrote, among other things, that some of the “issues and concerns” she had learned were that the Anchorage Health Department (AHD) wants to bring in “drug sniffing dogs” to the Sullivan Arena in addition to uniformed armed security. According to the email, Anchorage Health Department employees have been heard saying that it was time to start incarcerating people for rule infractions and that the contractor had been advised to “militarize this place,” which is almost certainly a strong bit of hyperbole but the meaning of which seems clear.

According to the email, Senior Administration Officials were said to have been heard telling clients on a recent visit that they had to earn their place at the Sullivan Arena and that staying in mass care was a “privilege” and were also heard telling the lead monitor that all clients should be breathalyzed.

“Mass Care is a FEMA designated response, not a shelter, prison or traditional homeless shelter. The easiest way for us to assist clients into housing and ensure that they are warm and safe is through their utilization of mass care. While the operation may have rules, militarizing the operation, using drug sniffing dogs or telling clients they have to earn their ability to access life-saving shelter and services will dissuade individuals from accessing mass care,” Zaletel wrote in her email.

Zaletel also made mention of an Anchorage Daily News article published yesterday that said a woman went to pick her father up at the Sullivan Arena in October and found him in a “frightening condition.” Zaletel wrote that she wanted to know what the “root cause” of the situation was and asked the Bronson Administration whether it was related to too many clients at the Sullivan Arena or inadequate oversight by the mass care provider.

“We need to figure out where the system broke down and address it immediately,” Zaletel wrote.

Perhaps noteworthy and worth keeping tucked away in your brain is that Shawn Hays, the city’s Mass Care Chief, is said to have been fired “abruptly” yesterday, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Hay’s firing appears to have been confirmed in today’s email sent by Assembly Member Zaletel.

At the Young Republican Mayoral Debate in February, David Bronson, then a candidate for Anchorage Mayor, opined on the homelessness situation saying that “you can take people into custody, you can cite them for other things,” and said that once they’re “in the system,” those individuals will then have to make a decision as to whether they will get better in a jail cell or some other proven program.

Maybe that proven program is a military program?

October 21, 2021 email to members of the Anchorage Assembly regarding Mass Care issues and concerns