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Bean's Cafe Hopes to Expand Space, Services

Published On: Mar 25 2014 07:48:58 PM AKDT   Updated On: Mar 25 2014 08:07:09 PM AKDT

Trying to create a one-stop shop for Anchorage's homeless, Bean's Café wants to convert some of its office space into treatment service areas. In order to renovate, Beans officials want to use $200,000 of state capital project funding.


For Bean's Cafe staff, increasing numbers of homeless people walking through its doors are limiting what they can do to help them. To alleviate the close quarters, Bean's is seeking $200,000 of capital budget money from state lawmakers. 

Officials say if a client wants help to deal with drugs, alcohol, or mental health issues, beyond the kitchen or the open seating area, there is nowhere for them to meet at Bean's.

"Nobody wants to stand in the middle of this café and stand up on a table," said Staci Feger-Pellessier, the outreach manager at Bean's. "I'm ready to make a change, I'm ready to make a change."

With most people staying at Bean's Cafe during daytime hours, the new space would be designed to provide more help on-site.

"What we really need is just this space to be somewhat of a conference room so we can start to host more group meetings," Feger-Pellessier said. 

Former client and current cook Aaron Dollison says the plan would work. After spending time on drugs and in jail, Dollison first came to Bean's to eat meals. He says after receiving support, he's become a better person -- a change that others would see if there was more room to help them. 

"Telling a story, my story, I think it will help someone else out," Dollison said.

"If you can bring the group to the people, it's better than trying to get the people to the group," said Susan Bomalaski, the executive director of Bean's and Brother Francis Shelter operator Catholic Social Services.

Brother Francis shares parking lot space with Bean's, but it also serves the same homeless people. Bomalaski says say their priority is also the same in helping clients work on issues.

"It's one thing to want them to get housing or want them to get employment," Bomalaski said. "But there's barriers there, and we have to be realistic about that and realize in order to break down those barriers, we have to bring in the experts on whatever that issue is."

The project's ultimate goal is to get Anchorage's homeless to open up, so they can connect with those who want to help them heal.

Bean's officials say there is a need for more space to receive mail, personal care items and to hold meetings.

After the death of a Bean's client last week, a lot of people wanted to talk about it as well as address their own issues.

There's no immediate word on the status of the cafe's request for state funds.