He stood on the front porch of the International Backpacker’s Inn, smoking a cigarette under the glow of the street lamp.
“Happy New Year!” he called as I passed.
That’s how we got to talking.
Hunter Shrewsbury says he came to Alaska 20 years ago — a shot in the dark to escape the Lower 48.
“[I] came up here with a change of clothes,” he said. “And that was it.”
He camped out in a park off International Airport Road, moved up to Fairbanks and over to the Matanuska Valley, then ended up back in Anchorage, where he bounced from hotel to hostel before finally ending up at the inn in Mountain View.
He’s been searching for an apartment of his own, he says, but landlords want too much for too little, or too much up front, and for now, he lives on the disability benefits he receives for a longtime mental illness.
“Everybody’s just like, ‘Well go apply for housing.’ No. I don’t want it,” he said. “There are people that need that housing more than I do.”
His dream for the future goes like this: He’ll buy some property of his own, become a landlord — a good one — and open an LGBT tavern called Hanna Rose’s, named after the woman he’d like to become.
“But in order for that to happen, I’ve got to get out of here first,” he said, flicking his cigarette into a tin can on the porch. “I’ve got to go get that apartment.”