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Another Busy Season Ends for NEST; Shelter Services in Nome Still Available

Snowy sidewalk and large sign reading "Nome Alaska" along a wood-paneled building on a winter's day in Nome.

The only seasonal, cold-weather shelter in Nome will once again be closing its doors, as its six-months operating season ends on the morning of May 1.

“We’re only open seasonally. It’s usually when the weather is 0 degrees or below, and we’re also considered a ‘wet shelter,’ which allows individuals to come in that have been drinking.”

Diana Sturges is the director of the Nome Emergency Shelter Team, a.k.a. NEST. She says for the last two months of this season, NEST has been averaging 40 or more guests per night. When adding up the total cost to support all of those people, and those living in NEST’s apartments, the bottom line comes out to almost $400,000.

“A lot of my figures are not just for the shelter… seven apartments in town that we take care of… so, our whole budget is combined. So it’s about, probably close to $390,000.”

Through April 19, Sturges says NEST has accommodated 4,700 people, or about 250 per week for the entire season. Some of them live in Nome year-round; others travel into town for medical appointments but can’t stay at Norton Sound Hospital hostel, and then, there are those who were just released from jail but have nowhere else to go.

Sturges has other ways to break down the services NEST provides to all of its guests.

“I don’t know if you want to know we’ve served over 8,000 meals between breakfast and dinner in a six-month period. I mean I can tell you we’ve gone through 500 rolls of toilet paper, a thousand pounds of sugar.”

Overall, the season went well from Sturges’ point of view, especially with the cooperation between NEST and the new NSHC day shelter. What next season will look like, though, she says depends on how the funding shakes up for NEST.

According to Sturges, a large part of the shelter’s funding comes from grants, but it also relies on donations from local entities in town.

Sturges has announced she will be leaving the NEST team, so the Nome Community Center will be hiring for a new NEST director. The position is currently open on their website.

The Carmen Center in Nome, where NEST is based, will be open until May 1 at 8:30am. However, the day shelter on West First Avenue will continue to operate from 8:30am to 7:30pm, seven days a week.

Image at top: Front Street, Nome, March 2017. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM file.