Anchorage opens warming centers and boosts capacity at homeless shelters amid cold snap

Jan. 27—For the next two weeks, Anchorage will have three warming facilities open at all hours of the day and night for the first time this winter, after a week of subzero temperatures and with more frigid cold in the forecast over the coming days.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said in a Friday evening statement that he issued a public health and safety emergency "due to the extended and prolonged forecast of double-digit subzero temperatures" and the "urgent needs" of some of the city's most vulnerable residents.

Anchorage's forecast was calling for another week of "these brutally cold temperatures," National Weather Service meteorologist Pam Szatanek said Saturday, noting that most days this coming week in most parts of town would see subzero highs and prolonged periods of single-digit temperatures.

"It really doesn't take a lot of time for the cold to impact people," Szatanek said. "It's a really dangerous situation out there."

Under the emergency proclamation, three warming facilities — the Aviator Hotel, the Golden Lion and the city's large group shelter, located in a former administrative building of Solid Waste Services on East 56th Avenue near the Old Seward Highway — are now open 24/7 until at least Feb. 9, according to the statement.

An additional 30 beds will be added to each of those facilities, which for weeks have reached or neared capacity each night, according to the city's shelter dashboard. The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness has estimated that more than 200 people are still living outside in Anchorage.

This winter, unlike in recent years, Anchorage's unhoused residents have not had access to a 24-hour warming facility that can be lifesaving for those experiencing homelessness and living outdoors.

The city in 2023 saw a rise in outdoor homeless deaths, and the Anchorage Fire Department this winter has reported near-daily, often dangerous fires at outdoor homeless encampments as residents have struggled to safely stay warm.

Under the proclamation, the city has the authority to create additional space at municipal shelters; acquire additional supplies, staffing and fuel; and open additional facilities for sheltering or warming if needed, Bronson's statement said. The proclamation is in effect for 14 days and expires at 5 p.m. Feb. 9, unless it's extended.