Winter House seeks to move into Bethel’s old Senior Center building

photo by Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

Hello friends. The Bethel City Council will be holding a public hearing for an ordinance that would authorize the sale of the land and building known as the Old Senior Center to the Bethel Winterhouse.

The hearing will take place during this week’s city council meeting, Tuesday Sept. 22nd.

The Winterhouse is a non-profit homeless shelter that provides meals and shelter services in the community of Bethel. Between December 1st, 2018 and March 31st, 2019, the Winterhouse supported 2,076 total service contacts with overnight stays at the shelter and/or meals services with an average of 15 guests per night for overnight stays.

“The City recognizes that providing opportunities for shelter and services to persons experiencing homelessness requires stability and the opportunity for growth,” states proposed Ord. 20-30. “Bethel Winterhouse, a non-profit organization, provides a necessary public service to our community and region; the City is committed to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness through partnership and collaboration.”

Back on July 14th, 2020, council approved an action memo that directed city administration to negotiate and execute an agreement with Bethel Winter House for the transfer or sale of the facility known as the “Old Senior Center” for the primary purpose of serving homeless individuals.

The Old Senior Center property located at 127 Atsaq Street is owned by the City. This property has been vacant for many years and the City of Bethel has been incurring heating/electrical costs. The building is also degrading and is subject to frequent vandalism, posing a liability risk to the City of Bethel.

The Bethel Winter House in partnership with Bethel Community Services Foundation has been seeking a property for permanent operations.

According to AM 20-28, regarding the land, “At this time, it is expected that the land would be retained by the City of Bethel and a long-term land lease would be included in these negotiations.”

Under Bethel Municipal Code, the City of Bethel through ordinance, can provide for the disposal of an interest in real property to an entity providing a necessary public service.

“Council finds that the services provided by the Bethel Winterhouse clearly fall within the scope of this provision,” states the proposed ordinance.

This proposal passed introduction on the consent agenda during the September 8th regular city council meeting.

Thank you to the Winterhouse volunteers, BCSF, the city council, and others for your work on this to help the folks that need and benefit from this service.