Alaska editorial: Degrees of shelter

This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:


The Anchorage Assembly will consider whether to raise the temperature at which churches and other social service outfits can offer shelter to individuals and families when there’s no room left at Brother Francis Shelter and Bean’s Cafe.

That’s wise and decent. Right now the cutoff is 32 degrees for organizations that have a roof but don’t ordinarily offer shelter to the homeless; the city administration proposes a new cutoff of 45 degrees.

Better yet, forget the number. Let the standard be the overflow at the usual shelters rather than the temperature. Let churches and other agencies that have room at the inn and in their hearts set their own policies about when to open their doors.

Catholic Social Services does that now at the Brother Francis Shelter.

If a church or other organization is willing and able to provide backup at any temperature, it should be free to do so within the current bounds of fire safety, space and staff.

Those who have offered a place out of the cold likely will continue to be generous.

Alaskans know better than most that there are degrees of cold.

We also know that it doesn’t have to be below freezing to make the night long and miserable without a roof, the right gear or the right state of mind.

It’s just a question of how fast it gets dangerous.

Don’t read the thermometer, just meet the need.


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