About 50 people were expected to spend Friday night inside Bean’s Cafe. Executive director Lisa Sauder said the decision was made less than one week ago, after the municipality asked for help in accommodating people who were turned away from places like Brother Francis Shelter due to high demand.

“The need is great. The temperatures are cold. It is dangerous to be outside right now, so there was no time to waste,” said Sauder.

She estimated at least 50 people are left without a place to stay on the coldest winter nights. Low temperatures are forecast to drop below zero several nights next week.

“We just felt very strongly that no one should go unsheltered,” said Sauder. “Even though this is outside our normal scope of operation, we agreed to – in this emergency situation – step in and provide shelter.”

Bean’s Cafe has served as an emergency shelter before; last winter, people spent the night there while Brother Francis Shelter staffed it. In February, Bean’s Café closed for more than a week after someone bled inside the building while it was being used as an overnight shelter with staff from Brother Francis. This time, the staff operating the overnight shelter at Bean’s will be its own employees. Moreover, Sauder said the 50 people who spend the night are approved regular clients, volunteers and people with mental health issues that are not well suited to a place like Brother Francis Shelter, which can get crowded when at capacity.

Sauder emphasized accommodating people overnight is a temporary solution to Anchorage’s lack of permanent housing for the homeless.

“This really is a very large Band-Aid that we’re putting into place right now just to make sure that we don’t have people literally dying on the sidewalk because they’re unable to obtain shelter at night,” said Sauder.

Bean’s Cafe will house people overnight until April or when other shelters no longer need its help. People will sleep on cots provided by the Covenant House or sleeping mats from Brother Francis Shelter. They will also be served a meal. Sauder said allowing people to spend the night was not part of their budget, and therefore called on the community for its continued support.

“We’re expanding our already very stretched-thin resources,” she said.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.