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Alaska lawmakers say Anchorage needs to clear illegal camps

June 5, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A group of Alaska state lawmakers sent a letter to Anchorage saying that city officials have failed to use their authority to clear illegal homeless encampments on public land, a report said.

Nine state legislators signed the letter Monday asking the city to immediately start cleaning up camps and disposing of waste, The Anchorage Daily News reported .

The letter fails to offer realistic solutions to a complex issue and did not acknowledge work already occurring, according to city officials.

Some officials said they consider the letter misguided, while inaccurately interpreting a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that blocks city government prohibitions against people sleeping on the streets when shelter is unavailable.

Democratic Rep. Zack Fields produced the letter addressed to Anchorage’s Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Police Chief Justin Doll.

The letter is signed by Representatives Chris Tuck, Geran Tarr, Harriet Drummond, and Matt Claman, and Senators Tom Begich, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Bill Wielechowski, who are all Democrats. Republican Rep. Sara Rasmussen also signed.

The city could clear people out of the greenbelt despite the court ruling, Fields said.

“There’s overwhelming community disgust and frustration about criminal activity in the park system” and the city’s failure to use its full authority, Fields said.

Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant said he was “absolutely offended.”

“We are working really hard,” Constant said. “If there was an easy answer, we would have figured it out by now.”

Constant questioned whether Fields was proposing “homeless internment camps.”

Jasmine Khan of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness called the letter “heartbreaking.”

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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