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Shelter to Close Early; Police Chief Asks for Action Plan for Nome’s Homeless

A telephoto view of Nome’s Front Street on a cloudy afternoon.
Nome’s main thoroughfare, Front Street, May 2013. Photo: David Dodman, used with permission.

More than ten people residing in Nome could be homeless once the local seasonal shelter closes Saturday morning.

Nome Police Chief John Papasadora was at Monday night’s City Council meeting to discuss the topic of homeless people wandering Nome’s streets.

“We’ve got a smaller population than we had. I think we had seven or eight people that returned to their homes, but we still got a core group of about 12 or 14 people that are still homeless. And like I said, NEST is closing on the 13th, so I just wanted to make you aware of that.”

Papasadora says he brought his concerns to the Council because this issue is out of his jurisdiction, and he would like the Council to come up with a plan of action. It is unclear if or when the City Council will come up with an alternative option for those who have no place to sleep overnight in Nome.

From what the Chief was told on Monday, currently, the local homeless population has their own plan for shelter.

“The statement I got today [Monday] from some of the people is: ‘we are going to stack up pallets on the beach, put cardboard on them, and sleep underneath blankets.’ I told them no camping. We definitely don’t want to get to the situation where we lose people overnight because we not going to get down to the beach to patrol, that’s just the bottom line.”

According to the executive director of Nome Community Center (NCC), Rhonda Schneider, NCC recently assumed operating responsibilities of the Nome Emergency Shelter Team (NEST). Schneider explains why NEST’s last full day of operation is today, which is earlier in the year than usual.

“We had a pretty extreme winter weather situation this season, ended up being open for whole days and longer hours while storms passed, waiting for people to have the opportunity to leave and be safe. So, we paid quite a bit of overtime this year and used our salary dollars before we normally would have done that.”

NEST is funded to operate for a six-month period, and they were open for the full length starting in late October and ending this weekend. Schneider says NEST served 183 individuals, had 3,388 “bed nights” (a metric which tracks the total number of attendees each night), and yet, their attendance is slightly lower than it was last year at this time.

“They may be stranded here from their villages. We’ve already been able to help some return, and that’s why some of our numbers are down this past week or two. Also, another couple we were able to find housing for. We’re sort of working to tackle some of the housing issues behind some of the reasons that folks are there. You know, we don’t know where folks come from before we open; we don’t really know where they go when we close.”

Schneider extends her gratitude and thanks to all those who worked as monitors for the local shelter this year. She and the NEST team hope that people without a place to go can find somewhere safe to sleep while NEST is closed.

Image at top: Nome’s main thoroughfare, Front Street, May 2013. Photo: David Dodman, used with permission.

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