Catholic Social Services accomplished a milestone on June 6 with the help of all of you and many incredible partners. Together, we added 83 new beds to the shelter system at a time when it’s most needed. Thanks to so much hard work from our team, Complex Care at 303 W. Fireweed in Anchorage opened, providing specialized care for seniors and medically fragile individuals.
This is a big step forward for our city, and we are proud to do this work alongside all of you, and all our partners.
Complex Care will have life-changing effects on our city and our guests. After the first night, we already began to see the future possibilities for a program like this.
The day after opening, a staff member asked one of those guests how the first night went, and the guest told them, “everyone slept in.”
At first glance, one might not understand why that comment matters. Everyone staying at Complex Care is elderly or medically fragile. Many of the guests have cognitive and physical disabilities. They struggle with memory loss, hearing, vision, mobility, and more. For guests with these challenges, change can be hard, even scary.
This transition was challenging for us too, something we’ve never done before. Our team met this new project with optimism and enthusiasm, knowing what it would mean for our guests when we opened the doors.
So, you can imagine my relief and happiness when we heard, “everyone slept in.” Providing a good night’s rest is a form of providing dignity. Good sleep and nourishment lay the foundation to build permanent stability. This tells us Complex Care is already doing its job — providing specialized care and a place to rest and recover with dignity so that our guests can move along their path to permanent stability with all the tools they need for the day.
At Complex Care, guests have their own rooms. This offers them a quiet space to rest and recover while they connect to the services and support they need.
We’ve always known this type of care had great potential. When the COVID pandemic began, Brother Francis Shelter (BFS) recognized the need to reduce its capacity to keep our guests safe and socially distanced. To meet the needs of our community, BFS became more specialized in serving elderly and medically fragile guests who needed individualized care. We recognized the need; and with our onsite clinic, we were well-positioned to meet it.
That experience confirmed what we have long believed: smaller, specialized shelters and facilities are the best solution for Anchorage’s homeless response system. In a smaller facility, improved staff-to-client ratios allow for deeper relationships, individualized care, better outcomes for guests as they get back on their feet, and most importantly, more dignified care. As Brother Francis Shelter has seen, smaller populations can foster a healthy sense of community and have a much lighter impact on surrounding neighborhoods as well.
Complex Care is just one piece of a greater network of services needed in Anchorage, but it will be an important element in building a homelessness response system that has compassion and dignity at the core of its values. Complex Care will increase the capacity of our homeless response system both in available beds and specialized expertise. It will provide support and dignity to our most vulnerable neighbors.
We look forward to the movement toward smaller, distributed, and specialized facilities, where guests can receive the tailored care needed to address obstacles and work toward permanent stability. And it all starts with a good night’s sleep.