City homeless coordinator Nancy Burke is calling it an emergency — every night as many as 70 people are turned away from Anchorage homeless shelters and are sleeping in the cold. The reason? All the shelters are full.


Burke said the Brother Francis Shelter, which has a capacity of 240 people, has been full every night since September. The Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, which can hold 92 people, is also full, as is an overflow shelter for men that opened in October and an overflow shelter for women at the Downtown Soup Kitchen that opened a year ago.


Burke said the city and other agencies have been meeting regularly to find additional shelter beds so that people can come in from the cold. They’ve finalized a plan that could take effect as early as Friday.


“It’s our top priority to get the extra shelter spaces open,” Burke said. “We have to make sure people are safe.”


The plan will allow 50 men to sleep at Bean’s Cafe, which could happen by the end of the week. In addition, Burke said they would like to add more beds at both overflow shelters to reach a total of at least 70 new beds. Adding additional beds at the shelters would require the approval of the city fire marshal, but Burke said she was hopeful that would come soon.


Burke said the situation will hopefully be temporary, a way to get through the winter.


She said the city has enough housing vouchers and rental assistance to get a lot more people into permanent housing, but the process has gone slower than they expected.


KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.