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Old Church Building Is Now Common Housing in Nome

Janice Wilson holds a jar of canned salmon in the kitchen of Kugzruk Kommons.
Owner Janice Wilson holding a jar of canned salmon in the kitchen of Kugzruk Kommons, a new common house in Nome. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.

“I love that the kitchen is so large that all the tenants can come in and do as they wish. There’s enough space!”

Janice Wilson is the owner of the Kugzruk Kommons, a new common house in Nome. She purchased the property in November and got to construction right away, intending to open for tenants in February. But in a city with extremely limited housing, all eleven rooms were occupied by the end of January.

For Wilson, this project is an opportunity to honor her family. Kugzruk was her mother’s maiden name.

“My parents invited people to stay with us and get back on their feet and when they did, they took off! It’s kind of something I’ve done my entire life and now I’m doing it again.”

The “Kommons” was once a local Baptist church built in the traditional medieval style, in the shape of a cross. Now the long vertical arm of the cross has been converted to eleven single-occupancy bedrooms while the shorter, horizontal arm has space for a kitchen, bathrooms, spacious common area, and laundry.

The building was already hooked up to city utilities and had several small rooms, making the conversion from a church to living units easy.

Wilson says the Kommons is meant to be a place where someone can show up with just a suitcase. Thanks to local donations, the rooms are furnished with beds, a lamp, and shelves. The kitchen is stocked with bags of flour, sugar, coffee, and tea.

“It’s transitional housing meant for people that are in between homes in Nome. I want people to come in and see what it feels like to be loved and cared for in a home that provides all the necessities so that when they go to their own home, they can do the same thing,” Wilson shared.

Image at top: Owner Janice Wilson holding a jar of canned salmon in the kitchen of Kugzruk Kommons, a new common house in Nome.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.