Help us create personal connections for Anchorage’s most vulnerable

As we continue our year of celebration of the 50th anniversary of Catholic Social Services in Anchorage, I think of connections and hope.

Personal relationships are so important for us as an organization. We are built on personal connections in Anchorage. Former clients become volunteers, neighbors become donors, and longtime staff become community leaders and advocates. Our 50 years have been blessed by hundreds of relationships that have strengthened the agency, and hundreds of thousands of relationships that have strengthened individuals who walked through our doors seeking help. We are so fortunate to have these relationships that provide support at Catholic Social Services.

Many people who seek our services, in short or long term crisis, come through our doors because they have not found connection and support in other parts of their lives. We have many services built around personal connections aimed at creating a stable base for a hopeful future. From pregnancy support and adoption, to family disability services and refugee resettlement, to our homelessness-related programs, we look to the future and the needs of our community as we work to maximize services and provide more opportunities for positive relationships and hope.

There are more people in homelessness living in our community. They are our brothers and sisters and we want to help them and also support a broader community that is safe for everyone. With that goal in mind, and in the spirit of increased personal connections, we are working to expand the services at Brother Francis Shelter during the daytime hours. We want to provide more safe and productive activities and services for our guests and for others who are not yet our guests, but who want to engage.

Some of the services will be basic. We have already allowed folks to come in and use showers and laundry facilities during the day. Other activities will be more focused on skill building, like financial literacy and working with our employment specialist. Many activities though will simply be about engagement and enjoyment. We already have yoga classes and creative writing classes available. These are outlets for people to express their feelings — a place potentially for people to feel success. Even a quiet corner to finish the crossword puzzle can go a long way in creating a sense of self and taking that next step to engage with services and getting out of homelessness.

This is a major undertaking; we have some resource support from the Municipality of Anchorage to make this successful, but daytime services at Brother Francis Shelter will require help from you in the community. We are such a rich community in terms of experience and generosity, and our agency has been the fortunate beneficiary of time and effort by many volunteers. They are the backbone of our work. This is how we began 50 years ago.

Now we are looking for volunteers with a skill or passion to share with those experiencing homelessness. I ask you to consider connecting with Catholic Social Services via our website ( and volunteering to help provide daytime services at Brother Francis Shelter.

Please consider bringing your skills, your time and your hope to share at Brother Francis Shelter. Let’s see how far human connections and support from our neighbors can take us in our journey to create more spaces and places for positive personal connections for the most vulnerable in our community.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit

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