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Anchorage motel could house chronic alcoholics

The Anchorage division of RuralCap is negotiating to buy a Red Roof Inn at Fifth Avenue and Karluk Street. The agency is seeking a state grant through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday the effort would follow a housing program in Seattle that does not require residents to stop drinking. Supporters said it could provide a safe home for chronic alcoholics while reducing the cost of services such as jail, detoxification and medical treatment.

“The concept is intriguing,” Mayor Dan Sullivan said. “You are getting people out of public parks and camps and into secure housing. That sounds like a positive step, but really the devil’s in the details.”

Fourteen homeless people died in Anchorage public parks, camps and on the city streets during 2009.

The mayor said the location of the motel wasn’t ideal, and he needed more information about staffing, financing and remodeling.

The building would be staffed around the clock, and employees would use video monitors to keep tabs on visitors as they come and go, said Melinda Freemon, director of RuralCap’s Anchorage division, including the Homeward Bound residential program.

There would be limits on visitors to prevent drug-dealing and to keep residents’ rooms from becoming party destinations, Freemon said.

Residents could stay as long as they followed the rules. They would pay fair-market rent for a single room, typically through public housing assistance or disability or other benefits.

“This is just like if any of us rented an apartment, with extra staffing to ensure the safety of tenants and the neighborhood,” Freemon said.

Anchorage Assembly member Dan Coffey, a member of the mayor’s homelessness team, is drafting an ordinance for a special permit for such housing.

For hard-core street alcoholics, “what we’re doing now is a total waste of time, money, energy, everything,” Coffey said. “Take them to the drunk tank, sober ’em up, let them drink again. Boom boom. Around and around and around we go.”

source: Associated Press

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