The latest deaths of three men and one woman brings the death toll of unhoused people in Anchorage to 49 this year, more than double last year’s figure, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
One man who used a wheelchair was found dead in the doorway of a gift shop in a busy downtown area as temperatures plunged to 30F (-1C), the news site stated.
The body of another man was found in a tent encampment near the city library, and a third died along a busy roadway. A woman was killed after her tent caught fire.
Hundreds of Anchorage residents have been sleeping rough in freezing temperatures after the closure of an emergency shelter in the Sullivan Arena earlier this year, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The city’s unhoused community of several thousand have set up makeshift camps across Anchorage after losing the shelter, the Associated Press reported.
Beds in temporary shelters have been made available, but many have opted instead to try to see out the winter by sleeping in cars and tents.
Anchorage Assembly member Felix Rivera, who chairs the Housing and Homeless Committee, told the Associated Press that the solution was to build more low-cost housing.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure that folks aren’t dying outside, but if we’re not focusing on the permanent solution, then a Band-Aid is going to be worse,” he told the AP.
Wednesday’s snowfall of nine inches (23 cms) broke the city’s previous record of 7.3 inches (18.54 centimeters) set in 1982, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm forced the closure of highways and schools, and brought major power outages.