Brother Francis to close in early August, then reopen at reduced capacity

(WAGM)
Published: Jul. 19, 2019 at 2:44 PM AKDT
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Brother Francis Shelter (BFS) in Anchorage will close for four days in August, then reopen at reduced capacity, officials said Friday.

The reduction will leave more than half of the people usually housed at BFS out on the streets, and those who are lucky enough to get a place to stay after the shelter reopens will only be allowed on the property during the evenings.

"People are really sad and upset, as it's hard to understand why this is happening," said Lisa Aquino, executive director of Catholic Social Services, which operates both Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House. "I get that. These are really big changes and, you know, what we try to emphasize is we're still here for them. We're still here for this community."

After $1.37 million in funding losses for the group, CSS will also eliminate certain services at Clare House, a shelter dedicated to women with children and expectant mothers over the age of 18. Fourteen or more people - around ten percent of all staff - are being cut from the CSS payroll, reducing the amount and types of services the agency is able to offer.

Guests and clients were already told about the reductions and temporary closure, Aquino said, and reacted accordingly.

"It's a huge loss," she said. "We're so devastated, so sad, and trying to figure out what to do with all our people."

Catholic Social Services has been spending financial reserves since July 1, a process Aquino said is unsustainable over time.

"We're already using reserves for Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House right now, for our homeless family services," she said.

She added that she and her team are hopeful for turning things around before winter hits.

"The people we serve are having some of the worst moments of their lives," she said, "and what we try to remind them is that there is hope."

In the meantime, Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant said Friday that work is underway on an extension of the city's cold weather shelter plan, re-tooled as an emergency overflow program. There's also legislation being put together, he said, that would increase the safety of areas in Anchorage's parks, trails, and greenbelt.

Hank Davis contributed to this report.
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