Assembly Chair wants to charge Bean's Cafe for excessive calls
The Chair of the Anchorage Assembly has introduced an ordinance to charge non-profit organizations, like Bean's Cafe, for excessive service calls to police and first responders.
Since January, Bean's Cafe says it's made 795 emergency calls -- on average, more than twice a day. But Assembly Chair, Dick Traini, says the bigger problem is that, on each call, the city has to send twice the resources.
"Let's say we have a paramedic call down there, we have to send double the equipment -- one to take care of the person, one to watch our paramedics, so they're not being attacked," Traini said. "What happens if you need an ambulance call on the other part of town? Is there going to be one there for you?"
Traini says the situation is unacceptable. His solution? To charge Bean's on a per call basis, past an amount the Assembly deems excessive. The Muni's current code considers 100 or more calls to any given property in a calendar year to be excessive and charges $500 for every call thereafter. But non-profits, like Bean's Cafe, are exempt from that regulation.
Because Bean's Cafe is funded with Muni money, either way, the issue will cost tax-payer dollars. But Traini says he hopes the measure could prompt the organization to hire a private security company.
For its part, the non-profit says that's just not possible.
"We would love to have security if it was cost-effective," said Lisa Sauder, Executive Director of Bean's Cafe. "We did receive a quote. It would cost about $250,000 dollars a year. For an agency of our size, that is not something that's feasible for us. We receive literally no state, federal, or very little municipal funding."
Bean's Cafe and the Brother Francis Shelter are ground zero for the city's mental health and housing problems. But those social issues are sending shock waves around the area, and into neighboring businesses.
Ron Alleva, owner of Grubstake Auction Company, says his property was broken into as recently as Tuesday night. Whoever did it broke the window of a trailer and left behind several piles of stuff -- clothing, papers, and even a wheelchair.
"It's full of needles, it's full of bedbugs, look at it, that's toilet paper. I mean, what are you going to do when you have this kind of biological hazard?" Alleva said.
Alleva incidents like this one have now put his business out of business.
"It killed it, I'm done, I can't keep my staff, I can't keep female staff, it's just too dangerous, and then the customers, do you think they want to consign a motorhome to me, or any cars, trucks, when they get broke into?" Alleva said. "And they party, and I have to clean up vomit. They don't go outside to defecate."
Nearby, on Karluk St., Anchorage Police were working on clearing a homeless camp off the sidewalk Wednesday. The department sent six officers to the site, as an extra precaution.
"I don't come down here by myself, we always try to come down with at least two people," said Gordon Korell, a patrol officer with APD's Community Action Policing team, after things escalated with some of the campers. "Cuz you never know if they're going to get really upset with you and you know, you can't watch your back the whole time."
Sauder points to a lack of mental health resources for Bean's Cafe clients as one of the reasons behind the high number of emergency calls. The Anchorage Assembly approved more funding for those resources Tuesday, which Sauder hopes will help.
Bean's Cafe's Thanksgiving donations are down by 40 percent this year. Sauder says she thinks that's, in part, because of Traini's proposal, which has cast the soup kitchen in a negative light. Traini hopes to have a public hearing on the measure on December 5.