Anchorage surpasses record for homeless deaths; 29 already this year

A record number of people believed to be homeless have died on Anchorage streets in the past seven months, and the count could increase before the year is out, according to police data.

The death count stood at 29 on July 28, surpassing the previous record of 24 set for all of last year, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Of this year’s count, more than half of the people died after the city closed its mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena on May 1, according to police incident reports.

“That’s very unfortunate,” Alexis Johnson, the city’s homeless coordinator, told the newspaper when hearing about the deaths for the first time on July 27. “Takes your breath away a little bit. It’s unacceptable.”

The Anchorage Daily News began tracking deaths of people found outdoors and with no fixed addresses in 2017. It notes the system doesn’t catch all the deaths of those experiencing homelessness.

Six deaths occurred over a four-day period from July 18 to 21 of this year, the police data shows.

The reports do not indicate a cause of death, which is determined by the medical examiner and is considered private information. However, police are now noting if drug paraphernalia or liquor bottles were present at the scene, even though the correlation between those and the death is not known.

For four of the six deaths reported over the four-day period in July, police incident reports indicated drug paraphernalia was found at four of the death scenes and alcohol at another.

A record eight people died outdoors last winter, and that number could rise this year as Mayor Dave Bronson said the mass shelter at Sullivan Arena will not be used in that capacity this winter. He has proposed giving homeless people a plane ticket out of the city so they don’t freeze to death next winter, but he hasn’t presented a plan to the municipal assembly nor identified a funding source.


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