UPDATE: Anchorage officials appropriate funding for cold weather shelters
When the Anchorage Assembly met with the Berkowitz Administration Friday they restored $200,000 of funding for emergency cold weather shelters. The money was originally taken out of the muni's 2019 budget for cold weather shelters in order to fund Brother Francis Shelter at full capacity in the face of state budget cuts.
Winter is on Anchorage’s doorstep, but city officials are caught in a temporary gridlock on funding emergency cold weather shelters.
The Anchorage Assembly met with the Berkowitz Administration Friday to discuss restoring $200,000 of funding for emergency cold weather shelters. That money was taken out of emergency shelter appropriations for this winter to fund the Brother Francis Shelter at full capacity in the face of budget cuts. It still has not been replaced.
According to the Anchorage Health Department, that money has to be replaced before the municipality can make any new contract agreements to open emergency cold weather shelters. Health Department Director Natasha Pineda says getting shelters up to municipal code takes time, even after finalizing contracts.
"Any operator who goes into contract with us to do these services could take up to 30 days to actually get stuff,” Pineda said, “appropriate bunks and train their staff to be able to even take on those folks. So time does matter."
The municipality wants to contract with Bean's Cafe to provide emergency cold weather shelter. The contract amount is set at $444,330 to fill a gap in services as winter approaches. The contract terms would allow Bean’s to provide meals and shelter to at least 150 people per night (at most 166, in the event of “extreme emergency conditions”). These terms would be effective from Nov. 1, 2019 through April 30, 2020.
Apart from the $200,000 that still needs to be put back into the budget, some assembly members expressed a desire to hammer out specifics in the Bean’s contract.
The Mayor’s Office and the Assembly did not reach a compromise Friday on restoring funding or finalizing a contract with Bean’s Café. Both of those topics have been postponed to the regular Assembly meeting Tuesday Oct. 8.