Representatives from Catholic Social Services, major hospitals of Anchorage along with civic leaders gather at Brother Francis Shelter

As a bishop, I get to participate in many different projects.  But, today, I witnessed something that is truly transformational for homeless people living in Anchorage.  It was also a moment that reveals the truth in what Pope Francis has been saying for over four years – when people and organizations come together to discuss the challenging needs of society, good things happen.

For over a year, leaders at our Brother Francis Shelter have been working with representatives from Providence Health & Services Alaska, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Alaska Regional Hospital, Southcentral Foundation, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center and the Municipality of Anchorage to provide transitional care for homeless people as they leave hospital care.

Today we dedicated and blessed 10 beds which are now available for people being discharged from hospitals while experiencing homelessness.  This space will provide them with a place to rest and recuperate while also working with a dedicated housing case manager.  All three local hospitals can use these beds.  As one of the doctors present today said: “Housing is the first prescription.”

Also today, we blessed a newly renovated room for expanded Caring Clinic Services.  Southcentral Foundation will provide a healthcare provider and nurse 5 days a week, full time, to staff a basic care clinic during the day for clients.  This will be in addition to the present services being provided by volunteers in the evenings.  All people will be eligible for services and it will be funded by Southcentral Foundation billing Medicaid.  These services will provide improved health and wellness for the guests of Brother Francis Shelter while at the same time decreasing the use of municipal emergency services.

Here it is important to mention the dedication of Governor Walker, who pushed for expanded Medicaid in Alaska, and these services to homeless in Anchorage are a direct result of the kind of care that is possible because of his foresight and compassion.  It was very kind of First Lady Donna Walker to join us for today’s ceremony.

This is a marvelous initiative on the part of the organizations that worked together to provide expanded services to those in need, and take a serious practical step towards ending homelessness.  I toured the Brother Francis Shelter facility on Wednesday with our Catholic Social Services Director, Mrs. Lisa Aquino.  Her enthusiasm is contagious, as is the energy and dedication of our staff and volunteers.  From the very beginning of my time here in Anchorage, I have been incredibly impressed with the quality and scope of services Catholic Social Services provides.

As I offered a blessing during our ceremony today, I was first of all seized with the awareness that this initiative offers what Jesus himself did.  They provide a human touch which brings healing.  They listen in order to grow in understanding.  They enter the difficulties of the lives of others in order to make a difference.  No doubt, God sees what is happening with this initiative, and is very pleased!

Well done, to all those who had a hand in making these new services a reality!