Operators of Bethel winter shelter say volunteer shortage could affect second season opening


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BETHEL, Alaska — A lack of volunteers could affect the planned opening of the second season of a winter homeless shelter in Bethel, operators said.

The targeted opening for the Bethel Winter House is early December, KYUK (http://is.gd/hHZmfB) reported. The shelter first opened last winter, offering meals and overnight lodging to the homeless.

But the shelter needs at least 60 volunteers to open, Winter House President Eva Malvich said. As of Monday, only 10 volunteers had been trained. Volunteers work overnight twice a month.

If enough volunteers haven't signed up by the end of the month, the shelter's board of directors will have to meet and decide whether it can open or not, Malvich said.

The shelter was run with 20 volunteers last year, and that wasn't enough, Malvich said. People were burnt out and overworked, she said.

The community needs to get more involved for the 100 or so homeless people in Bethel, Malvich said.

"The whole purpose for this winter house is to prevent death by exposure for people in this community," she said. "There's no reason why somebody should die from exposure because we're in the 21st century."

As for funding, Winter House officials say ConocoPhillips is contributing $5,000, bringing the shelter one step closer to a goal of employing a part-time volunteer coordinator. A $13,500 state grant also is possible.

The location of the Winter House has still not been decided. One option would be to rotate the shelter from church to church, as was done last year, Malvich said.

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

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