Until my recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska, I had never heard the term “Chronic Public Inebriate,” yet in Alaska the word “inebriate” is spoken everywhere. It is so grafted in Anchorage’s culture that even the homeless call themselves inebriates. At first it bothered me, but I soon learned that Anchorage’s homeless problem is very complex, caused by severe alcohol addictions.
I met Kim while he was panhandling on the side of the road. His wife had gone up the street for a cup of coffee. Although to an Alaskan this last week was a bit of a heat wave, I still had a hard time holding the camera without gloves because it was so cold. Probably around 35 degrees!
Kim started drinking when he was nine years old, and he’ll be fifty-two this May. Alcoholism is a horrible disease. Looking in from the outside, people think that drinking is a choice. But at some point along the way, alcohol completely takes over and the choice is gone. Alcoholics need booze just like we all need air, making it nearly impossible to stop. Add to that the dehumanizing experience of living without permanent shelter and people will drink until they die, which is what’s happening in Alaska.
Kim is very knowledgeable about laws that local city governments are trying to pass to solve this crisis. No matter what laws are passed, people addicted to alcohol will find a way to get it. Kim talks about his friends drinking Listerine when they cannot get served. One of his friends was the first homeless inebriate found dead last year. The man’s body was found with an empty bottle of Listerine next to it.
I wish I had answers for Kim and the people of Alaska. Please watch this video and share it with everyone you know. People are dying, and we must find a solution.
Special thanks to Hertz
Anchorage’s local NBC affiliate aired a story on my visit