Bethel homeless shelter run by volunteers won't open until year's end

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BETHEL, Alaska — A winter homeless shelter in Bethel is not scheduled to open until later this year, despite rapidly dropping temperatures in the region.

The Bethel Winter House is set to open Dec. 1. Winter House Board secretary Ross Boring said shelter organizers are overwhelmed by the work involved in running a shelter. He also said it's been hard to find volunteers to work overnight, KYUK (http://is.gd/tLNGud) reported.

"Last year we were very worn out at the end of the three months and all this depends on us," Boring said. "If we don't have volunteers one night we'll have to turn guests away and won't be able to run the shelter."

That's something shelter operators hope to never see. They have applied for grants that would allow them to hire someone to run the shelter.

The emergency shelter concept is new in Bethel, where the Winter House made its debut last December, following exposure deaths the winter before.

The shelter was relocated from church to church last winter. Organizers would like to eventually find a more permanent location for a shelter.

Organizers started the shelter after forming a Lions Club.

Bethel offers few opportunities for the homeless to stay warm, according to Rick Robb, who worked with shelter founders.

"People tend to float from house to house sleeping on floors and couches," Robb said. "A lot of people stay in abandoned buildings, and that's proved a problem with some crime and we've even had some deaths in the past."

According to a point-in-time survey of Bethel's homeless population in January 2013, Bethel had about 100 homeless, including 36 children.


Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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