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Emergency shelter open and serving clients in Nikiski

nikiski_shelter.jpg
Sabine Poux/KDLL
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A Nikiski homeless shelter that has been years in the making opened late last month and is now taking in new clients.

"We had our first person right after Christmas," said Leslie Rohr, executive director of Love INC, the nonprofit taking point on the shelter.

She said the 10 people currently using the new facility, including one family, came through the nonprofit.

"So they were known to us and known to be vulnerable," she said.

The new shelter is just north of the Nikiski Recreation Center, on the Kenai Spur Highway. A coalition of local nonprofits bought the building this winter after a long search for a location.

And so far, so good, Rohr said. 

“It’s actually gone very smoothly," she said. "There’s always going to be some kinks and things that need to be worked at. I think one of our biggest challenges right now is just making sure we have appropriate staffing coverage.”

She said they have adequate staff for the clients they’re housing now.

But they plan on is taking in more clients, including two who will arrive tomorrow. The shelter can fit up to 22 individuals.

Rohr anticipates she'll need to build up the staff, too. Staff trained in trauma-informed care will be on hand at the shelter at all hours, including two staff every night and up to four during the day. Staffing was a repeated concern at a town hall late last year, where Nikiski residents said they worried about who would be at the facility to handle emergencies.

“I’m going to be probably in a position to hire another person here shortly," Rohr said. "Then we also have capacity to use some volunteer staff people as well.”

Incoming clients to the shelter are screened through Love INC, Rohr said. They will be able to stay at the shelter for 30 days at a time, with the possibility of extending for another 30.

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