- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - The only homeless shelter in the southwest Alaska community of Bethel has reopened but with more stringent rules.

Now, anyone seeking to stay the night in the shelter, inside Bethel Covenant Church, must allow their possessions like backpacks and coats to be searched for alcohol or other intoxicants, KYUK reports (https://is.gd/P0kKag).

Bethel Winter House opened for the season Dec. 1 but was closed just over a week later after a person who coordinated volunteers quit and clients were found to have brought alcohol inside the shelter.

Some volunteers also complained police were slow to respond to their calls.

Bethel Police Chief Andre Achee, who attended a community meeting last week, said his officers responded to all calls even thought they were short-staffed.

The all-volunteer shelter board reorganized as a Lion’s Club chapter at Thursday’s meeting. The shelter reopened the next day u under the new rule for anyone wanting to spend the night.

Volunteers will search backpacks and other items, looking for alcohol or other intoxicants. Clients who attended the community meeting said besides alcohol, some others spending the night mixed hand sanitizer and other products containing alcohol into water bottles.

One woman refused to go through the search Friday night and was turned away.

“We monitor who we take in and if the people who come in don’t want to comply with the rules then we’ll ask them to leave,” Bethel Winter House Lion’s Club President Eva Malvich said.

The shelter was organized after six people died from exposure in 2012.

In the program’s first year, more than 80 regular guests stayed at the shelter, and the number of exposure deaths fell to one.

The shelter will be at Bethel Covenant Church for two months before moving to a Catholic church for the remainder of the winter


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

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