The Salvation Army finalized the purchased of a building in the Tundra Ridge area of Bethel Friday. Once operational, the building will offer a variety of services to the community.
Major Loni Upshaw is handling the purchase and says she is happy with the building.
“Wonderful building! And it fits the needs that the Salvation Army has in this community, lack of any place else to purchase in town,” said Upshaw.
The building was once a girls dorm for the school formerly called the Bethel Alternative Boarding School It’s been vacant since the school moved to the Kilbuck building.It has no utilities as of Friday, and plans are in place to clean the building and to make any repairs before they begin operations but there is no set date for that to happen, and she is not sure yet of what services will be available through them.
Upshaw says, besides being the Bethel headquarters for their organization, it will also be the location for the local homeless shelter.
“It’ll be the Salvation Army outpost, or core, which is our church. We will be helping with food services, a foodbox, commodities. We will be helping out housing the Winter House there and whatever services that [they] need. We’ll just be open as a social service but also as a church,” said Upshaw.
The Bethel Winter House couldn’t be reached for comment but they previously announced tentative plans to open December 1st, during the coldest part of winter. But Upshaw is hopeful they might open the shelter sooner since it gets cold before winter.
“I’m not quite sure, I haven’t had the meeting with them. But the Winter House has grant monies to hire night time watchers or caretakers. So as soon as things are ready and the temperatures down we will start housing people and doing what we can to get them out of the cold. No date has been set yet for this,” said Upshaw.
The Salvation Army will also provide a food pantry; a service that up till now has been operated by The Bethel Lions Club. The Lions Club stated that their contract with the Food Bank of Alaska has been discontinued.
The Salvation Army has been in Alaska since 1898 and serves 18 communities throughout the State, Bethel being the most recent addition. They offer youth programs, spiritual support, emergency services, rehabilitation services and senior services.