Ben Boeke Arena no longer a mass shelter

Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 10:35 PM AKDT
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Mike Delongchamps is a mechanic, and a good one, if you ask him.

“I can fix anything with a wrench,” he said. “But put a computer in front of me and I’m a deer in headlights.”

Delonchamps said he was out of work when the COVID-19 pandemic came to Alaska, laid off by his previous employer, and with money tight, he ended up staying at the mass shelter in the Sullivan Arena. Now, though, he’s on the path to start a new job, thanks to the help he got from navigators at the community resource hub outside the shelters.

“They combined my two resumes, and made a good one a great one, without hesitation,” he said. “An hour later, I got a call.”

Delongchamps isn’t the only person who’s been helped out by the resource hub. Bean’s Cafe CEO Lisa Sauder said that enough people have been moved into more permanent housing that the two mass shelters, one at the Sullivan and another at the Ben Boeke, can be consolidated at the Sullivan.

“There’s been housing opportunities, there’s been opportunities for people to go to treatment, some people have gotten jobs and been able to move into independent housing,” she said.

Data provided by the Municipality of Anchorage shows that since May 10, an average of 230 people stayed at the two shelters, well under their maximum capacity of 480, and still less than the cap of the new consolidated shelter, 324.

“We really wanted to make sure we had enough space for everyone who wanted a bed to have one, and we were able to do that,” Sauder said. “No one was turned away due to lack of space here.”

The original contract between the Municipality and Bean’s Cafe called for two mass shelters, and was set to end in July. The contract has been modified to only the one shelter, but it’s also dropped the July end-date. Sauder and Chris Schutte, director of the municipality’s department of economic and community development said that a new end date is still in the works.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Sauder said. “Nobody really knows for sure what the next step will look like.”

For now, the focus remained on the newly combined facility, and on the resource hub outside.

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