Bronson’s new plan for mass shelter draws mixed reactions from those who have experienced homelessness

Residents near Sullivan Arena voice concerns about future of homeless shelter
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 8:08 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After serving the homeless population in Anchorage for more than 40 years, Bean’s Cafe will no longer be operating the mass emergency shelter at the Sullivan Arena where they’ve been for the past 18 months.

On Sunday, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson announced that the shelter has a new contractor — 99 Plus 1 Inc. The announcement came two days after it was reported that the contract with Bean’s Cafe would be ending on Sept. 15.

“We are really proud of the work we’ve done the last 18 months,” said Lisa Sauder, executive director for Bean’s Cafe. “We have kept people safe, we have kept people housed, we’ve kept people fed.”

As a result of the transition, Sauder said 77 Bean’s Cafe employees will be laid off.

Joseph Lank has been staying at the Sullivan Arena mass shelter for the past few months. He said the Bean’s Cafe employees at the site have been a lot of help to him and other residents.

“They’ve been a blessing and I just hate to see them go,” he said.

Although Lank’s thankful to have a place to stay off the streets and to the employees that have assisted him, he said conditions at the Sullivan Arena’s shelter site haven’t been optimal lately, adding that some people have opted to leave the shelter and camp out in the woods nearby or in their car.

“We gotta either come outside to use the bathroom or go upstairs (and) a lot of times, there’s no tissue in there,” Lank said. “(There’s) no running water in there — they give water out in igloos (water containers) and we get water from there.”

Lank said he has some concerns about a new contractor taking over, but he’ll remain at the Sullivan Arena for now since he has nowhere else to go.

“It hurts, it sucks, but it’s part of life we have to go through,” he said.

Christine Denton used to stay at the mass shelter operated by Bean’s Cafe. She said her experience there was positive, for the most part.

“You’re safe when you’re in the building,” she said. “The security and the staff were pretty good about everything — they actually watch people when they leave, and they patrol out and around further than they are contracted to patrol.”

Virginia Christie has also stayed at the shelter in the past and now lives in a camp near the Sullivan Arena. She still stops by the shelter to grab food and take a shower. Christie said she doesn’t know much about the new contractor, but said she hopes they keep people safe.

“I’m just hoping that the new program is gonna be more full circle where they connected with the other resources to get people where they need to be,” Christie said.

99 Plus 1 Inc. will take over operations at the Sullivan Arena mass homeless shelter on Thursday.

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