Bean’s Cafe says it can’t offer overnight shelter Anchorage homeless this winter

Bean's Cafe at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage.
Bean’s Cafe at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage. (Staff photo)

Just as overnight temperatures in Anchorage are beginning to dip into the teens and single digits, an area non-profit announced Wednesday it won’t be able to provide shelter beds to some of the city’s homeless this winter.

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Bean’s Cafe is a soup kitchen close to downtown Anchorage. Last year, for the first time, Bean’s opened it’s main daytime space as an overflow shelter just as cold winter weather bared down on the city. Anchorage was already struggling with a severe shortage of shelter beds for adults, in part because of an incident in the summer of 2016 that caused Bean’s to permanently shut down overflow shelter operations that had provided beds to more than a hundred people in the dining area.

On Wednesday, Bean’s Executive Director Lisa Sauder said the organization’s board decided that was not feasible to repeat again this winter.

“We were notified by our insurer that that led to many issues,” Sauder said of last year’s policy. “It was a usage change for our building, and led to us ultimately getting dropped by our insurance carrier.”

“Unfortunately it’s just not something that fits with our core mission right now,” Sauder added, clarifying the organization’s main focus is fighting hunger.

The decision means there will be 50 less beds available for people seeking overnight shelter.

The municipality of Anchorage has a cold weather plan that goes into effect when temperatures drop below freezing.

Sauder conveyed the change to officials with the city late on Wednesday afternoon.

“This was a surprise for us,” Nancy Burke, the city’s homelessness coordinator, said.

The beds are still badly needed. According to Burke, on Tuesday night, the Brother Francis shelter had to turn away approximately 20 people because it was filled.

Burke said Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is asking the board of directors in charge of Bean’s Cafe to reconvene and reverse Wednesday’s decision.