A new operator took over Anchorage’s largest homeless shelter at midnight on Thursday, and Bronson administration officials say the transition did not go smoothly.
“The transition from the previous operator to the current operator was not well done,” said Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bronson.
Bean’s Cafe, the city’s longtime soup kitchen, has run the 400-bed shelter at the Sullivan since it opened in March 2020. But it’s contract expired this week, and the city picked a new private company, 99 Plus 1, to take over operations.
At the time of the handover, Young said, the showers at the shelter were shut off, porta-potties were padlocked, and the place had been “fairly trashed.” He also said the wrong keys were given to open supply closets.
“I can’t speak to the intent and the previous contractor but you shouldn’t put locks on doors that you’re supposed to transition to allow the new person — a new operator —to take over,” he said.
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Lisa Sauder, executive director at Bean’s Cafe, said the porta-potties are operated by a separate contractor, but declined to comment further.
Young said Bean’s also removed the plastic totes clients use to store their belongings, as well as the cots clients sleep on. 99 Plus 1 is providing those items under its contract.
Rolling a suitcase down the Chester Creek Trail on Thursday, a Sullivan shelter guest who gave his name as Kevin said the last few days at the shelter have been confusing and chaotic.
“There’s no showers. No water. Nothing. It’s very horrible. It’s a horrible conditions,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”
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Bean’s has asked the city for a review of how the new operator was selected.
Bean’s had been operating the Sullivan shelter under a sole-source contract since the pandemic began, but the city put operations up for a competitive bid in August. A committee selected 99 Plus 1 out of six bidders, including Bean’s. Administration officials haven’t released the names of the people on the selection committee and they haven’t said whether they would consider a review.
Zach Zears, the shelter manager for 99 Plus 1, acknowledged the challenges of shelter operations.
“There’s obviously lots of challenges,” he said, “People were very uncertain about our intentions, everything from meal times to showers.”
But he said that as of Thursday afternoon, everything was running smoothly.