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99 Plus 1, Sullivan Arena clients reflect after first week under new contractor

The Sullivan Arena shelter now operated by 99 Plus 1 Inc.
The Sullivan Arena shelter now operated by 99 Plus 1 Inc.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 4:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been one week since a new contractor, 99 Plus 1 Inc., has taken over operations from Bean’s Cafe at the mass homeless shelter being run out of the Sullivan Arena. It was a big transition for residents staying at the shelter along with staff who were scrambling to get things up and running.

On Friday, Alaska’s News Source sat down with the for-profit organization’s Congregate Shelter Director Zach Zears to hear what he had to say about the transition and how things have been going for the past week. Zears said things have been going well and that with the help of his staff, some improvements have been made.

He said one of those improvements is a new isolation and quarantine room that’s been added for people waiting on COVID-19 test results or people who are exhibiting any symptoms. Zears said the shelter is adequately staffed right now.

“I was looking at the staffing numbers yesterday, and we’re there,” he said. “We’re still hiring, shelters are always hiring, but I am adequately staffed.”

Zears said people who are staying at the shelter still have access to all the essentials like food, water, laundry and showers.

“Day one was about beds, blankets and food — I wanted to make sure everybody had their basic needs met, and showers and laundry was the second day,” said Zears. “It’s been going pretty well, it’s kind of amazing honestly (and) I’m so proud of everybody here — the staff, the guests, it’s fantastic.”

Alaska’s News Source spoke to a couple of people off camera who are currently staying at the shelter now operated by 99 Plus 1 Inc., and opinions about the new contractor seem to be divided. One resident told reporters that things could be better at the shelter, while another resident said things have improved and that the atmosphere at the shelter is now more relaxing.

“This past week has been, I’m relating it to a heart transplant for the building,” Zears said. “This week is reconstructing the bones. Last week, we had to make sure that everybody knew who we were, and that they weren’t gonna go without, and there was going to be everything that we could do that was possible, and just change the attitude here.”

Currently, Bean’s Cafe is still providing meals for individuals who are staying at the shelter after the municipality put in an emergency request for proposals to extend meal services from Bean’s from four days to two weeks. As for what happens when the extension is over, Zears said the Emergency Operations Center handles the contracts.

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