Brother Francis Shelter loses daytime services amid worries about cutbacks at night
Earlier this week, the Brother Francis Shelter closed its doors to most of its clients during the day. Catholic Social Services Executive Director Lisa Aquino said a one time grant from the Anchorage Assembly several years ago allowed them to offer services during the day, but that money has long run dry.
A health clinic run by the Southcentral Foundation remains open and anyone can use the restrooms, but Aquino said with the exception of a handful of clients who are enrolled in employment or housing programs at the shelter, clients are no longer able to access the shelter during the day.
Aquino said things like doing laundry, taking showers, using the computer room or visiting the donated clothing room are no longer possible except in the evenings when the shelter is open to all.
Lisa Sauder, the executive director of nearby Bean's Cafe, said the decision to cut day time services is a loss for the clients both nonprofits serve. She said it's led to an increase in the number of people in the parking lot and also in the cafe.
"Certainly we're seeing more people as well," she said. "And people with a lot of stuff, you know, people that were able to stay at the shelter with their items all day and not have to move back and forth. And that's a real hardship for a lot of people."
Aquino said the decision to cut day services wasn't easy, but she is worried about something else even more — what will happen if Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes stand.
"What I see ahead of us is a big increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness outside," she said.
CSS estimates homelessness in Anchorage will increase by 48% if cuts to the nonprofit go through. She estimates Brother Francis Shelter would lose more than half its shelter beds, from a capacity of 240 down to just 100.
"What I think is that they are going to go out into the community and we are going to see more people camping. I think that's the logical thing because there's really no other choices," she said.
Aquino said the situation will be even worse once winter rolls around and they'll have to decide who can come into shelter and who will be left in the cold.
"We are going to have to make decisions about who are the 100 people who get a bed, and who are the 140 who don't get bed. I don't know how to make those decisions," she said.
Aquino invited anyone who has an idea about how to solve the tough problems, to contact Catholic Social Services and join them in the conversation.
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