Building Update February 19, 2021

For Immediate Release

February 19, 2021

Contact-Lisa Sauder- CEO
C. 907.350.3818

Diana Arthur- Development and Communication Director
C. 907.632.3349

Bean’s Cafe to Expand Services to Meet Needs of Community
Sale of Bean’s Cafe 1101 E. 3rd Avenue building announced

Bean’s Cafe is excited to be part of a coordinated effort to reduce homelessness in Anchorage. With an agreement in place to sell the current Bean’s Cafe site at 1101 E. 3rd Avenue, the agency is planning for expansion of services to better meet the increased needs in Anchorage following the on-set of COVID-19.

Lisa Sauder, CEO, Bean’s Cafe says, “We are focused on how to best meet the needs of our community, both for shelter and for food security. The partnership with Weidner Apartment Homes and Rasmuson Foundation will bring a new level of private funding and support to help systemically change how homelessness and food security are addressed in Anchorage.”

Since 1979 Bean’s Cafe has been providing safe, warm day shelter, meals, and connection to services. For numerous years, the organization has also provided emergency cold weather shelter for up to 166 people. With the onset of COVID-19, Bean’s Cafe was asked by the Municipality of Anchorage to stand up a Mass Emergency Shelter at Sullivan Arena. This shelter opened on March 21, 2020. Since opening the doors, 3305 people have accessed shelter and food at the Arena. Current capacity inside the shelter is 400 people. The agency has proved that you can successfully operate a large-scale shelter with minimal COVID-19 transmission. With strict regulations and the consistent following of CDC guidelines, Bean’s Cafe Mass Shelter has kept the transmission of the virus extremely low. In the most recent testing of clients at the shelter, 281 tests were given and there were zero positive cases. Since testing began May 2020 about 5700 tests have been conducted with 151 positive results.

How is this accomplished with 400 people in the shelter daily? The answer is not complex. Weekly COVID-19 testing for clients and staff, strict sanitation protocols, social distancing and a no-nonsense rule regarding face masks are keeping the transmission rate low. By adhering to the CDC guideline of six feet of separation between cots, there has been no contact tracing cases attributed to transmission from someone in a neighboring cot. There are also environmental factors to be considered, the Sullivan Arena is well ventilated, does not have forced air, has high ceilings and an open layout which may have contributed to the low spread of COVID-19. These factors have helped ensure the health and well-being of the 3305 unique individuals that have utilized the shelter since it opened.

Additional considerations have been made to minimize the exposure during congregant mealtimes. By looking at research and data from other shelter outbreaks, it is believed that congregant meals in shelter are one of the highest risk points for transmission. By reducing the time for congregant meals and implementing a “meals-on-demand” model where clients have choice of a meal and when they would like to eat there is no more standing in line to access food or hundreds of people dining together in close quarters. Meals are currently available 12 hours per day to clients. This has also helped to reduce food waste and further stabilize people staying at the Shelter.

While COVID-19 has presented many challenges, it has also presented the opportunity to develop an entirely new model of emergency shelter in Anchorage. By allowing clients to access a cot 24 hours per day and to have storage space for their items we have seen more people engage in shelter. Many are new to homelessness but many also were campers or unwilling or unable to engage in the former models of shelter available in Anchorage.

The Mass Emergency Shelter at the Sullivan Arena has been able to create a model of client-focused services on demand. Showers and laundry service are available seven days per week. A navigation hub provides screening for clients to connect to services including treatment, housing, employment, assistance applying for benefits and more. An on-site medical clinic operated jointly by Southcentral Foundation, Providence Health Services Alaska and Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center provides primary care five days per week.

A Shelter 2 Success program has helped Bean’s Cafe employ 16 people directly from the shelter. Moving them into transitional housing and providing a step-down approach that helps them stabilize and within 90 days to be able to pay their rent, utilities, and expenses. 75% of the participants in the program are still employed and living independently. Bean’s Cafe intends to stay in shelter operations whether that will be on the current third avenue location or another site.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bean’s Cafe has expanded and modified its emergency food response programs. Serving homeless, at-risk adults in addition to hungry families and children, we have seen a huge increase in demand for services. Over the same period, year-to-date in 2019/2020, we served 310,500 meals. As part of our COVID-19 response, we have already served 727,017 meals. The community has continued to support our efforts to make sure no one in Anchorage goes hungry or unsheltered through continued financial and in-kind product donations. We have received 268,432 pounds of donated food since the pandemic onset. This has necessitated turning our former “dining room” into a food storage and meal preparation space. All client services are now delivered off-site.

The site being sold at 1101 E. 3rd Avenue has been serving solely as a food production facility and storage site since March. To accommodate the growing need for access to food, the agency will be remodeling a building they currently own in Anchorage. Plans include an expanded commercial kitchen, food production area, expanded refrigeration and freezer space and warehouse space which will include dock-high loading to allow for efficient storage. No client services will be conducted at this facility.

Bean’s Cafe exists to fight hunger for all ages, one meal at a time, while providing a pathway to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect since February 1979. Currently Bean’s Cafe operates the mass emergency shelter at Sullivan Arena under contract with the Municipality of Anchorage/Emergency Operation Center where the hungry and homeless are provided with hot nutritious meals, a warm and safe shelter, and referral assistance to health and human service programs. Bean’s Cafe is open 365 days of the year, ensuring these services are always available to those most vulnerable in our community. Visit for more information.


Building Update – Aug 12, 2020

Over the last few weeks Bean’s Cafe facility has been mentioned in the assembly meetings as one of four buildings to potentially be purchased as part of an initiative to address homelessness. Many people provided input into this process over the last few weeks and we certainly recognize the volatility of this issue in any community’s backyard.
The Municipality of Anchorage asked us to get an appraisal on our building at 1101 E. 3rd Avenue to ascertain the validity of a proposed purchase. The board unanimously approved the appraisal process with the understanding that this did not in any way obligate us to sell the building. Our building is more than land, kitchen and dining hall since we also have a city ordinance to consider as well. More importantly, any change in location or service needs to increase the service to our clients.
The vote by the Assembly last night to move this process forward does not automatically turn the building over to the Municipality. We have no formal offer from the Municipality and we as an agency need to determine what is in the best interest for our clients and our community, and the organization as a whole.
While the process is not seamless, we do appreciate the intent of the Mayor’s office and want to continue to seek options as we strive as a community to make homelessness, rare, brief and a one-time event. We will continue to be part of the discussion of system change in our community, and only sell the building if it makes strategic sense to enhance service to clients.
As donors, volunteers, clients and friends, we want to include all of the voices so that we can best offer food and services to our homeless clients. One of the important lessons we found throughout the many changes in the last few months is that the 24- hour shelter and food distribution model has worked to allow for easy access to clients to provide navigation services. This is critical so that we can help them find their pathway to self-sufficiency. The navigation team have directed over 300 clients to housing, rehab or mental health services. As clients engage in services with Bean’s Cafe on a much larger scale, we are able to link them to many partner services and provide a way for clients to exit from the shelter.
 We will continue our services the Anchorage’s homeless population. Our 350 beds and three meals a day provide much-needed shelter and food during this COVID crisis. We are strategically thinking about the next steps for Bean’s Cafe and are looking at options to continue our methods of providing food and shelter to anyone who needs it throughout the entire city of Anchorage.
Whatever our next course, we are going to maintain our mission to fight hunger for all ages, one meal at a time, while providing a pathway to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect. We have done this for more than 40 years and will do so for another 40 years.

Thank you for your continued support.

Building Update – July 1, 2020

Bean’s Cafe has been in the news lately. We want to give a status update that accurately reflects what is happening in the organization.

Since 1979 Bean’s Cafe has consistently provided food and shelter to the hungry and homeless in Anchorage. Since that first day in 1979 Bean’s Cafe has dedicated itself to fighting hunger one meal at a time while providing pathways to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect.

When COVID-19 guidelines from CDC came out regarding congregate shelter, it was immediately realized that our current shelter model in Anchorage was not adequate. The requirement to have six feet of separation was simply not possible with the existing shelter building.

On March 22, at the request of the Municipality of Anchorage, Bean’s Cafe agreed to dramatically increase services and moved all client operations to the Sullivan Arena and Ben Boeke Ice Arenas. After successfully navigating over 180 clients out of emergency shelter, we were able to consolidate all operations within the Sullivan Arena so the Ben Boeke Ice Arena could return to its original purpose.

In order to accommodate a completely different food delivery model, Bean’s Cafe ramped up meal production and calls for donated food items. The entire facility on 3rd Avenue is now a meal production facility. The dining area that used to house clients, tables and chairs, is now packed with donated food and meal prep tables. In fact, we have produced over 50,000 meals since March 21for our clients receiving services at the Sullivan arena.

With a rented U-haul trailer, our kitchen staff now deliver over 300 breakfasts, lunches and dinners to be served at Sullivan Arena every day. Although clients are not being directly served at our 3rd Avenue location, we are still operating the building at full speed.

As the Municipality of Anchorage and our entire community work together to find a path forward to address homelessness, addiction and mental health, the Municipality inquired into the possibility of acquiring the Bean’s Cafe building, which we own. The Bean’s Cafe board of directors unanimously agreed to order a building appraisal with the clear understanding it did not mean we are, or would be, interested in selling our current site. We are still very early in the process of considering the multiple options to best serve the needs of our clients and community.

While we are exploring our possibilities, we are always committed to providing food and finding services to end the cycle of homelessness within our community. Any change of location will only enhance our central mission and will not change despite the location of our building and shelter services.

Our current building has many stories of hope and success, and we will continue to find those stories wherever the services of Bean’s Cafe are located in our community. We look forward to collaborating with the Municipality, other homeless service providers and our many neighbors to find the solutions to best help our clients.

Thank you for your continued support.

Watch our video below for an update!

Posted by Beans Cafe on Monday, June 22, 2020