Last week at a community celebration at the Brother Francis Shelter, Catholic Social Services publicly honored Brother Bob Eaton and Brother Dave Sifferman for helping found the landmark Anchorage outreach.
The co-founders were not on hand, but their impact was visible.
35 years ago, late Anchorage Archbishop Francis Hurley heard of the work and accomplishments of Brother Eaton and Brother Sifferman with men and women experiencing homelessness in Spokane, Washington. Archbishop Hurley invited them to assist with street ministry in Anchorage.
After being moved out of the first overnight Anchorage shelter in 1983 for fire safety concerns, Brother Eaton and Brother Sifferman established a tent city at the rose garden on the west end Delaney Park Strip and invited those without a home to join them.
Then Mayor Tony Knowles worked with the religious brothers and Archbishop Hurley to develop a permanent structure on Post Road through a federal development grant and assistance from the Anchorage Assembly.
After many years and renovations, Brother Francis Shelter now serves as more than a shelter by providing a safe place to sleep, a hot meal, clothing, access to medical care, volunteer opportunities, community-wide resources and comprehensive case management.
Thanks to a contribution from two private donors in the community, a plaque commemorating the work of Brother Eaton and Brother Sifferman was unveiled at a celebration organized by the Brother Francis Shelter Advisory Council to shed light on the beginnings of the shelter.
Today, Brother Francis Shelter provides temporary, emergency shelter for men and women, an evening meal, use of shower and laundry facilities, case management services, advocacy, job readiness and referrals for employment, permanent housing, mental health issues, and treatment options for alcohol and substance abuse. Last year, Brother Francis Shelter provided 96,498 nights of stay and served 77,636 dinners to 3,688 men and women without a home. Among guests using comprehensive case management services, 39 percent moved into permanent housing.