Proposed ordinance impose fines for excessive emergency calls
A measure by Anchorage Assembly members Dick Traini and Amy Demboski would remove an exemption from fees for excessive police calls to non-profits such as Bean's Cafe and the Brother Francis Shelter. The ordinance would impose a $500 fine for every visit after the first 100 made by police or paramedics.
According to Anchorage Police, around 1,500 calls for service have been made by the Brother Francis Shelter already this year. Just under 700 have been made to Bean's. Imposing fines on non-profit organizations who struggle to make ends meet did not sit well with Bean's executive director Lisa Sauder.
"I don't know which calls the Assembly would like to charge us for making," Sauder said. "If it's for when someone is overdosing on Spice, as recently happened and was rolling in Third Avenue across several lanes of traffic? We had one APD cruiser show up after 21 minutes and park on the hill a block away and wait for a second unit to respond because it was too dangerous for one officer who was trained to carry a gun and a Taser to respond to someone on the roadway."
In that incident, Sauder said, staff formed a perimeter to keep the overdosing person safe in the middle of traffic on Third Avenue for 41 minutes during the official response.
If the ordinance were in place today, the fines accrued by the Brother Francis Shelter would exceed $700,000 and fines to Bean's Café would top $250,000.
"We get one competitive grant from the Municipality that is capped at $150,000," Sauder said. "That's if we write the grant right and we get enough points to get the money. We previously used to get $210,000, that was capped at $150,000, so we lost $60,000 on this last two years cycle from that. We also lost $220,000 in funding for our Children's Lunchbox program because it did not meet the criteria for whatever guidelines were issued for that set for that contract. So we've lost $280,000 in funding basically in one fell swoop. That is the only Municipality funding we get. Everything else, honestly, is raised by and from the community by people dropping off a turkey to help feed people for Thanksgiving dinner. A $100 donation, 80 percent of our funds come from private donors, foundations and corporations. Our largest funder is Tudor Bingo. We do not have million dollar supporters."
Sauder says Bean's Café would like to be able to do what they are meant to do -- serve food.
"I'm proud of the services we provide but our focus is on hunger and it needs to remain there," Sauder said. "You will lose this vital source in our community for what people need. People need food, period. We have to meet their basic needs, food and shelter. Our role is the food. We have many other partners that do shelter. We are not in the shelter business and it causes great distress on that primary focus on hunger and trying to meet the needs of the community. There has to be other options in the entire Municipality of Anchorage to provide suitable emergency cold weather shelter for people, other than a facility that first and foremost is a restaurant. We wouldn't ask Simon & Seafort's or the Food Bank to house people. We need to look for a different solution."
The measure will be introduced at the Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21.