Subcommittee tackles subject of downtown transient population

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Community leaders are concerned about the transient population downtown.

Members of the public have complained about harassment from people loitering in the mall area, but business owners also pinpoint theft as an issue.

The Downtown Kodiak Revitalization Social Issues and Public Safety Subcommittee talked about the situation at a meeting this week. The event drew significant attendance from mental health professionals, retail business owners, government leaders, and nonprofit representatives.

Business owner Chris Lynch said members of the homeless population sometimes enter her building, but said she hasn’t experienced trouble in the building itself.

“The parking lot, that’s another issue. I watched last week. My truck got cased, three other trucks next to mine. Stuff like that’s happening pretty regular.”

Several people pointed out that homelessness is not new to Kodiak, but the dynamics of the population have shifted over time.

Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer said that’s something he’s noticed.

“Talking to my wife and kids about it, the scary component has escalated, especially in the last, I would say, five years especially, and even noticeably in the last 18 months. And we’re seeing a lot more mob grouping of individuals in downtown Kodiak than what we ever saw before.”

Some nonprofit representatives voiced concern about striking a balance between helping those in need and enabling.

Pastor Rony Harden with Abba Father’s Christian Fellowship Church said the parish provides a lot of assistance, including clothing and medicine. He said he’s seen many new faces who don’t count among those who return on a regular basis.

“This group of folks that I’m dealing with, they’re more aggressive than the ones that I’ve had in the past, and it’s a direct reflection of our society. Just because we’re here in Kodiak, we’re not in utopia, and we’ve got to deal with life’s challenges. Life happens everywhere. And so we have to deal with life’s challenges in a compassionate manner, but at the same time, it’s going to take all of us working together to come up with a plan to figure this out.”

Those around the table threw out a number of possible solutions, including setting up a police sub-station downtown. Some reported that more frequent police patrols have been effective.

The next meeting will be announced when scheduled.

Edit 1/26: A former version of this article stated that this was the first meeting of the the Downtown Kodiak Revitalization Social Issues and Public Safety Subcommittee. While this wasn’t the first meeting of the subcommittee, is was one where members invited the public to weigh in and contribute to the ongoing discussion. According to City Mayor Pat Branson, their suggestions will come before the Kodiak City Council.

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