One of the difficult things about writing on local politics is having to endure listening to hours of right-wing propaganda others don’t. We do this to convey elected officials’ political perspectives on varied important issues—things they wouldn’t dare say to the Anchorage Daily News or Alaska News Source.
Yesterday, on the Dan Fagan Show, Eagle River Assembly Member Jamie Allard gave a wild interview on the topic of homelessness.
At one point during Allard’s interview, Fagan asked, “If Mayor Bronson gets more aggressive in cleaning up these (homeless) camps, what will prevent them from just popping up in other parts of town?”
“We just won’t allow it,” Allard responded, “so it’s kind of the same thing Culver City did, and that’s the same thought process I have, and I brought it up to the Mayor, you keep individuals running…”
Allard’s strategy, which she says she brought to the attention of Anchorage Mayor David Bronson, is to chase the unhoused around the Municipality, abate them and attempt to force the homeless into a mass shelter. Allard made no mention that I’m aware of about reaching the homeless population through “compassionate outreach.”
During the course of the interview, Fagan suggested former Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz had “coddled” the “street vagrants” and surmised that Bronson planned to make it tougher for the ‘vagrants’ to “drop out of society and get drunk and high every day.”
The propaganda being spread by those on the Right has been that Anchorage’s unhoused population is a band of lazies who intentionally choose not to participate in life, setting out to create turmoil because they’re bored. It’s a sick, misinformed belief that arguably serves to paint struggling individuals as ruthless street vagrants—the word ‘vagrant,’ of course, was used by Mayor David Bronson throughout the mayoral campaign.
Missing from the Right’s supposed ‘compassionate’ response to addressing homelessness is any mention of the prevalence of mental illness on the streets.
There is a clear link between psychiatric disorders and homelessness. Mental illness, in addition to adverse childhood experiences and substance use, are risk factors for homelessness.
One of the most comprehensive surveys ever undertaken roughly five years ago found that, at minimum, 25 percent of the American homeless population was seriously mentally ill at any given point in time. Yet, Allard, the Mayor, and other ultraconservative voices appear to believe that keeping our homeless and mentally ill neighbors “running” will prove to be helpful in addressing homelessness in our city—hardly a “compassionate” approach.
Fagans interview with Allard also touched on Transgender issues. Allard told Fagan:
“I truly believe those who are Transgender are mentally ill” and said that if you choose to “mutilate your body and cut off your body parts because you want to be something you’re not, it will never change your DNA, you need mental health.”
Allard may be better off focusing on the mental health challenges facing our homeless population instead of opining on matters she knows next to nothing about, although arguably, her transphobic statements made on the Fagan Show are likely to do nothing but solidify her standing among members of the radical-Right.