The first week of May typically brings warmer weather and the closure of Nome’s overnight shelter, the NEST (Nome Emergency Shelter Team). But this year, the shelter will stay open longer than usual, and at a new location, as Nome continues to follow coronavirus mandates and ordinances.
Currently, both the NEST and Norton Sound Day Shelter are being housed in the Nome Recreation Center to provide adequate social distancing for shelter patrons. Despite being moved to city buildings, the shelters are still being funded and staffed by their individual organizations.
Rhonda Schneider is the Executive Director for the Nome Community Center, the organization that runs NEST. She wrote to KNOM in an e-mail saying, “We are happy for the shelter to remain open for another month so that our unhoused folks have a place to stay while the community continues to social distance.”
Schneider went on to write that the Shelter has been serving 35-40 people nightly since operations have moved to the Rec Center.
The change in venue came at both the recommendation of shelter staff and Norton Sound hospital leaders to prevent any outbreak of COVID-19 in a “vulnerable” population. As of May 5th, there has only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nome, the person has recovered, and was not a shelter guest.
City Manager Glenn Steckman told the Nome Common Council that the Rec Center could start opening up to the public in phases, potentially starting as early as June. NEST’s last scheduled day for the season is May 31st.
Image at top: Mattresses are spread six feet apart in the Nome Rec as a social distancing precaution. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020)