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Alaska Mayor Offers Homeless 1-Way Fare To Warmer Climes Like L.A. - Critics Howl

By Jake Beardslee · July 31, 2023

In brief…

  • Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has proposed buying one-way plane tickets to warmer cities for the city's homeless population.
  • He argued the policy is a more human and cost-effective alternative to providing local housing during the harsh local winter.
  • Critics claim the program would be an abdication of the government's responsibility to care for the homeless.
  • Other critics say the idea is culturally insensitive since 43% of the city's homeless are native Alaskans who would be displaced from their homeland under the plan.
A homeless man in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.  Andrew Brown/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

As winter approaches, Anchorage, Alaska is proposing a controversial solution for its homeless population: Buy them one-way tickets to warmer climates in the lower 48 states.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said last week, “A ticket this morning to Los Angeles is about 286 bucks. It costs us $100, plus or minus a few dollars every day, to house someone. And we don’t have a place to put them in large shelter this winter.”

Bronson added, “Someone says, ‘I want to go to Los Angeles or San Diego or Seattle or Kansas.’ It’s not our business. My job is to make sure they don’t die on Anchorage streets.”

The mayor argued that it is more human and more cost effective to provide homeless individuals with transportation to another, warmer state than to pay for housing in Alaska during the harsh winter months. In Bronson’s view, “When people approach us and want to go to someplace warm. Or they want to go to some town where they have family or friends that can take care of them, if they choose to go there, we ́ll support that.”

Not everyone in Anchorage is happy with the mayor’s controversial plan.

Anchorage Assembly Chair Christopher Constant noted that Alaska Natives comprise 43% of Anchorage’s estimated 3,000 homeless, telling ABC News, “The reality is there is no place to send these people because this is their land. Any policy that we make has to pay credence to that simple fact. This is Dena’ina land, this is Native land,” said Christopher Constant, chair of the Anchorage Assembly. “And so we cannot be supporting policies that would take people and displace them from their home, even if their home is not what you or I would call home.”

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska told the Associated Press that it is “past time for state and local leaders to address the underlying causes of homelessness — airplane tickets are a distraction, not a solution.

Last year, the city collaborated with the Salvation Army on a smaller pilot program, flying roughly a dozen homeless people living on an Anchorage campground to destinations in the lower 48 states. Anchorage is now looking to potentially expand its controversial approach of relocating its homeless population rather than providing local shelter and services. Critics question both the ethics and effectiveness of such a program.