05/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

First Day in Alaska Visting The Homeless

It is days like this I really wish I had paid more attention in English class. So much happened I want to share with you, yet I just don't know how to express it in written word.

We started the day at the Anchorage Rescue Mission. I started to play with Whrrl again. Lots of great improvements. I still wish I could check in multiple times for the same story. I interviewed Dave Williams, Program Director, and you can watch here. I really enjoyed my tour and getting to meet Dave.

Ed O'Neill then picked us up to visit camps. But the first stop was a meeting with Assembly Member Debbie Ossiander. If I had known I wouldn't have worn my "Animal" shirt. It was very interesting seeing the political process in the works and I was honored to be included.


Ed is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He once owned 20 liquor stores and now runs a nonprofit called Anchorage Responsible Beverage Retailers Association that is funded by the liquor stores he sold. Basically they go to homeless camps and clean up the mess while also trying to help people get out of homelessness. They also protect the general public. ARBRA is really amazing and unique nonprofit community support model. Here is a short interview with Ed at one of the nearly two dozen camps around Anchorage.


Ed drove us around trying to visit camps. During the day no one is home so we didn't meet anyone at the two camps we visited. I did have the honor of meeting Bernice on the side of a busy road. She has severe mental illness and was extremely grateful for the gift of socks and gloves. Thanks to all of you that helped support this trip for making that happen. Special thanks to Hertz.


Luke we met panhandling. I still cannot wrap my mind around living outside in this weather. But the story that is the main reason I am here I saw play out in real life. We stopped at a park and I met a nice older man with a female confined to a wheelchair. They are also sleeping outside and have been homeless 11 years. They were very nice but did not want to go on video. I always respect people and my first priority is to make a friend. I really wish you could have seen the woman put on the new gloves. She was so happy. While talking another homeless man, he pointed out a "native" trying to walk down the street. Alcohol is a huge issue here and this man could hardly walk. He went behind a van so I could not see him fall, but I noticed he wasn't coming into view so I walked over. He was collapsed in a snow bank. I ran over to see if he was OK and Ed followed. The man was barely conscious and mumbled something about his back. Ed called 911 which is the right thing to do. Left alone in the snow this man probably would have died. The police arrived quickly, but by this time the man had gotten up and had stumbled around the corner only to fall down in another snow bank. The officer loaded the man into a police car and I am told this is called a "sleepover", where drunks are given an overnight stay.

As I type this I cannot get the image of this man out of my mind. What if we were not there? How many other drunks are falling into snow banks tonight? My heart is broken from what I experienced today. Sadly, there is no easy or quick solution for Anchorage's complex homelessness problem! More people will continue to die unless real action is taken.