Bean’s Café funding for Centennial Park has run out

When the campground was first created as a designated camping area for the homeless population of Anchorage, Beans Café came in to help and provide food.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 4:41 AM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2022 at 9:21 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Since July 1, Bean’s Café has been providing free meals at Centennial Park for homeless Anchorage residents. On July 5, the organization switched from providing one meal a day to three meals.

“We’re hoping that it helps people stabilize. If they don’t have to worry about where they are getting their next meal, or what it’s going to be or how they’re going to eat,” Bean’s Café CEO Lisa Sauder said. “People have to have two basic things to be able to do anything else. You have to have food and shelter before you can worry about a job or anything else.”

The decision to serve food at Centennial Park, Sauder said, was in response to bear-human encounters, fire dangers, and the continued need for their clients to have a reliable food source. In order to help eliminate bear encounters, the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department has also provided picnic tables for people to use by the Bean’s Café food truck. Sauder said this will help eliminate food from being in campsites, and that they will remove and dispose of any garbage.

“People need more than one meal a day if they can’t cook in a campsite, and if they don’t have access to a grocery store where they can purchase food or use SNAP benefits,” Sauder said.

Bean’s Café spends $2,200 each day to fund the program. This money covers the cost of staff, a generator for the food truck, and the food. Bean’s Café has raised a total of around $21,000 to fund the program. However, Sauder said that as of Wednesday, the program has used up all the money they have fundraised to provide food.

“We do not have any designated funding for this. There is no contract for this we are here using community sourced funds to feed people every day,” Sauder said.

The closest place to buy food, according to Sauder, is half a mile away at a Holiday gas station. However, for the vulnerable homeless population, that is not always feasible, especially when the nearest form of public transportation is also half mile away.

“We realized people needed to be fed where they were,” Sauder said. “Instead of the old model of a soup kitchen and people coming to you, we need to be more mobile and go to where they’re at.”

Marclita Williams is one of the Anchorage residents living on the campground. Williams and others have expressed immense gratitude.

“It was a blessing in my book,” Williams said. “Very much of a blessing.”

Nearby bears have become an unexpected obstacle for those helping to facilitate the campground for the homeless at Centennial. Recently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game killed four bears drawn into the campsite, likely looking for food. However, Centennial Campground resident Jimmie Hartley feels that as long as the residents at Centennial keep their tents clean and make noise, the bears should not cause anyone to worry.

“When people come here and they’re lazy about keeping their camp clean and their garbage, that’s what brought the bears here. They’re smart,” Hartley said.

Williams said that the bears are not the main cause of disturbances. Williams feels that the main disturbance are teenagers sneaking into the campground at night.

“Messing around and trying to steal things from people, taking whatever they can take from people,” Williams said. “When they work their hard earn money and their years and their lives to maintain what little they have.”

Bean’s Café now faces the challenge of raising additional funds to maintain their food service to Anchorage residents at the Centennial Campground, which is especially difficult as the cost of food has increased.

“It’s really important that the community steps up and helps us make sure that nobody goes hungry in our community,” Sauder said.

Bean’s Café encourages anyone who wishes to donate to the cost of food to visit their website, where they accept donations.

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