20 clients at Anchorage’s Brother Francis Shelter test positive for COVID-19

Brother Francis Shelter
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A coronavirus outbreak at Anchorage’s Brother Francis Shelter has resulted in 20 clients and one employee testing positive for COVID-19, according to Catholic Social Services, which runs the facility.

A client who had stayed at Brother Francis but recently left came down with the virus last week. That person reported to shelter staff last Tuesday that they tested positive for COVID-19, said Tricia Teasley, development and community relations director.

On Thursday, everyone at the shelter was tested and 18 additional clients were found to have COVID-19, she said. They were all asymptomatic. Another person who had stayed at the shelter also reported a positive result after last week’s round of testing, bringing the total number of clients infected to 20. One staff member who had not been working at the shelter at the time also reported testing positive for COVID-19, Teasley said.

The shelter clients were taken to an off-site location for isolation.

Brother Francis Shelter can accommodate up to 114 people who are elderly or medically fragile. Clients are now being tested three times a week, Teasley said. Prior to the outbreak, clients were screened by having their temperatures taken and being asked a series of questions before being admitted.

“We’re concerned,” said Teasley. “We’re working closely with city and state health officials.”

Catholic Social Services “cares deeply for the safety of this community” and “will remain vigilant,” Teasley said.

Located on East Third Avenue, Brother Francis Shelter has long been the city’s largest shelter for Anchorage’s homeless population, which is estimated at roughly 1,100 individuals. Since March, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit Anchorage, the shelter reduced its caseload and began only accepting elders or people with medical or mobility issues. Much of the city’s unhoused population now uses Sullivan Arena, which was converted to a mass shelter in late March.

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been identified at Sullivan Arena, said Lisa Sauder, executive director of Bean’s Cafe, the nonprofit that operates the mass shelter. That’s on top of four cases — three clients and one staff — confirmed after a July 31 round of testing.

[Anchorage faces a homeless crisis — and the challenges may be increasing]

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Paula Dobbyn

Paula Dobbyn is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on homelessness. She's a veteran Alaska journalist who has reported for the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU and the Alaska Public Radio Network. Contact her at