BENEFITING: ALEXANDRIA HOUSE
EVENT DATE: Jun 30, 2014
The problem is that it snows sideways, sleet sideways, wind-driven-rain that soaks you in a matter of minutes, 800 miles from the nearest train or bus, or hospital for that matter. There is no YMCA, or hostel. No emergency shelter for men.
This is the end of the line. If you are stuck here, you are stuck. If the weather “Comes down” as they say, it can be days before planes can get in and out. Dutch Harbor and Unalaska are connected by a bridge. Many who come here have burned their last bridge. Desperate, family depending on them, stressed, hopeless, overwhelmed. The freezing water under that bridge has tempted more than one. Thankfully there is help.
Helping over 50 people a year for more than 20 years, many who told me things like “about to jump off the bridge” into the cold Bering Sea because they had reached the end and failed again and could not face family and friends again without money or hope or a place to go.
Just who are we talking about?
M- Twenty something who was flown out here by her boy friend, who then beat her up and kicked her out with no money, food or options. We were able to get her into a safe place and within a few days fly her back to her family.
R- 65 yrs old, attempting to break the Guinness Book of World Records, ship wrecked his small sail boat and lost everything. The Coast Guard rescued him after eight days surviving on the uninhabited part of nearby Akutan Island and brought him to us. After two weeks he was able to safely fly to Seattle and find another boat to continue his journey around the world.
A –Mid thirties, got the call at work here on the island that his son had died and his wife had left him. Within a month he lost his job and was robbed of the $1,000 he had left; leaving him totally stranded. In the bottomless hole of depression, we made ourselves available and committed ourselves and all our resources to be there for him and with him till he could see hope again.
J- Won a lottery in his home country of Uzbekistan for the privilege to emigrate to the U.S. He was dropped off here by the fishing boat he was working on with nothing but his personal gear, and his limited English. Sores on both legs became badly infected because he was never dry, and the raingear necessary for his deck job was not allowing him to heal. We were able to care for all his housing and personal needs till he was well. His strong work ethic and great attitude landed him a successful position on an oil rig.
I- , Left Sacramento at the age of 19 so he could earn money to support his younger brother, who was trying to stay in school in spite of his mother’s drug addiction, and their homelessness. We helped him till he got a steady job on the docks and could afford to fly his 15 yr old brother up to live with him and finish high school.
K- Eight years old when he found the note in the bathroom his parents left for him when they left. He lived on the streets until his grandfather found him. The next few months were better, but then his grandfather died. Alone again at the age of 10 he did what he needed to survive, and ended up with a drug habit. He spent his last dollars on a plane ticket to Dutch Harbor because he was promised a job on a fishing boat. 18 years old, in Dutch Harbor only to find out no job existed and no one knew what he was talking about. We were honored to come to his aide and provide a family of sorts with housing and resources to get a real job on a real boat.
D- 40-something came as a refugee from Africa with his wife and 5 children. He left New York because he couldn’t find work. The company that hired him ran on to hard times and had to let him go with no ticket home and no money. With a safe place to sleep, and food to eat, he was able to work as a longshoreman and save his money until he made enough to go home with something for his family.
P- From Mexico City who was told he could just come to Dutch Harbor on a visitor’s visa and would be able to work on a fishing boat and make big bucks. He spent everything to get here and was in a state of shock and anguish to find out no one would even listen to him without a valid work visa. We are only 800 miles from Anchorage but to walk up to the counter and buy a ticket just that far costs on the average $700. Mexico seems a million miles away when you only have $30. We were honored to befriend and help him with housing, food, and in time put together a ticket back home to Mexico City.
R- African immigrant with limited English, employed by a local processing plant, was the victim of violence when her husband was murdered after work by a couple of men and thrown down a set of metal stairs. Because there is no mortuary or crime lab here, his body was flown to Anchorage. She was completely broken and lost as to what to do. She needed lots of love and support. We were so honored to stick with her through the trauma and disrespect she faced, network with other care providers in Anchorage and to help her to fly there to bury her husband.
S- Lost it all because of drugs and alcohol. He returned from treatment and needed a place to work from until he earned back credibility needed to be rehired within the area he had a degree. After demonstrating that he could be trusted, he was given a second chance, and is doing well.
Many are stranded at the airport during blizzards and the hotel is full. Others are left stranded at the dock as the boat just left without them. Others try to make due, camping out in a wet, unheated cement bunker leftover from WWII with no hope of change.
A building featured in Playboy magazine as the most dangerous bar in the USA will be transformed to fund an organization dedicated to giving people hope, and practical help by “…providing a warm bed, a helping hand, and a kind word as we would to Christ Himself.” people, whose true stories similar to those above will have hope again.
Jeremiah Guthrie, “Six months ago, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, I ended up having no place to live while in Dutch Harbor. Someone mentioned that a church had a program that helped support people that ended up “homeless” here in Unalaska. After some research I discovered. Unalaska Christian Fellowship and met John Honan, the pastor of the church. He paid for and put me up in the Harbor View Inn at least four nights while I waited to fly out. While waiting, I applied for a job at the Grand Aleutian Hotel as a front desk representative and got hired! If it had not been for the generosity of the Alexandria House, I know that I would not be here now, working and helping to provide a secure future for my family. Since my employment began at the hotel, John has ceaselessly provided a clean and safe environment to sleep for the “homeless” in Dutch Harbor, and I have checked a lot of them into the hotel firsthand. Not only does the Alexandria House help those in need by providing shelter, they also feed and clothe them through programs like “God’s Closet” and the weekly morning breakfast on Wednesdays. In conclusion, the services provided by John and the Alexandria House were tremendously helpful to me and I continue to recommend to people that if they find themselves “homeless” here in Dutch Harbor, to call John Honan of the Alexandria House. If you have any questions you may contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your time and have a nice day. Sincerely, Jeremiah Guthrie
Dear John Honan, I made it to Seattle and have been here for almost a week. I wanted to drop you a line to say hello and thank you for everything up in Unalaska. It was good getting to know you and John, Nuyn, Kelly, Matt and Dennis and etc. I appreciate the help and support you were able to provide in a time of need. Take care and please say hello to the guys for me. Chris
 http://www.seattlepi.com/business/article/Alaska-s-wild-woolly-bar-scene-has-calmed-in-1128193.php#photo-635243 See also USA Today: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20091110/states10_st.art.htm
The $30,000 will buy all the doors and windows, re-side the building, electrical, plumbing, heating and flooring.
Thank you for considering our dream project of having our own building to generate permanent support to continue help for all stranded for many years to come. Check out our pictures show rewards and other ways to help.
The "Elbow Room Bar" was given to us in 2009, a famous bar for fishermen for many years. We are finally able to move ahead an completely remodel the building to comply with current zoning. Built in the 1930's, a lot has to be done from top to bottom. We have completely gutted the building and framed in the upstairs.
So here is the latest…
We are almost finished gutting the building! This has been a massive project, in some places in the downstairs there were seven layers of flooring. Thanks to the many volunteers who have worked an estimated 200 hours to date helping. We are waiting for the application that was sent to the State Fire Marshall to be approved, so remodeling can move forward.
In the recent past:
November 20, 2013 Planning and Zoning approved the request for a variance.
The Plan: For the Commercial part of the property the plan is to rent/lease the space to a neighborhood-friendly entity that would keep reasonable hours: For example, a clinic, Dr. Office, or small business space.
For the Residential space the plan is for a two bedroom two bath apartment that will be rented.
Revenue from these properties will pay for the cost of maintaining the property, and help pay for the needs of housing the stranded we help here on the island.
We have great respect for the people we help. Some are long-time locals; others are new to the island. Our volunteers are trained to value and listen to whoever comes for help, to help the person to get a plan, to work that plan, and get back on their feet quickly. We are trusted by the agencies in our community who help people in need. Public Safety, USAFV, local churches, and the clinic refer people to us for help.
A brief history
The Alexandria House Corporation Started
On February 4, 2009 when Mark Horne, a local businessman said “This town’s been good to me. I’d like to give something back.” So he purchased the Latitudes bar (the old Elbow Room Bar) which did two things. 1. No more bar in the neighborhood, and 2. He hoped the building could be used to fill a need in the community as an emergency shelter for the people who come here to work, and end up jobless, temporarily stranded without shelter. A corporation was created to manage the property, and named after his daughter Alexandria, (which means “Helper and defender of mankind”) so as she grew, she could begin to understand the value of helping people in need. The papers were drawn up, and a board was chosen. John Honan, a local pastor agreed to donate time to direct the corporation.
The corporation was given the property under two conditions:
1. That it would be used exclusively as a shelter
2. If we could not get a shelter up and running in two years, the property would revert back to Mark.
The corporation applied for variance on the commercially zoned property. Neighbors were still traumatized by the behavior of patrons of the bar when it was open, and were afraid that they would have the same difficulties in the neighborhood if people were sheltered at the property. They showed up in force at the planning and zoning meeting, and opposed the variance. It was denied.
(see website for NY Times and KUCB article at www.alexandriahouseak.com)
The two year period expired, and the donor found a buyer for the property. The property was sold, the down payment and monthly payments were directed to the Alexandria House Corporation so that the interest it generated could provide funds to pay for the needs of the stranded, be it a room at a local hotel or bunkhouse, proper clothing when gear was lost, food, medical bills, or help with airfare home.
During this time, the new owner applied for, and received a variance to make the upstairs of the property into a residence. Unfortunately, they defaulted on the loan, and after several months of trying to work things out, the corporation had to take the property back.
The original donor, Mark gave us permission to use the property as it is zoned.
We contacted an architect, Klaus Mayer, formerly of Mayer Sattler-Smith to draw up plans to utilize the space as it is zoned. He came up with a plan to use the space. The corporation applied for and received a 12-month extension on the variance which was approved November 20, 2013.
If you would like to learn about ways you can help please contact us: (907 359 2675
Why the name Alexandria House?
The principal donor asked that the property be named after his daughter so as she grew, she could begin to understand the value of helping people in need. He wanted that to be a part of his legacy to her. Alexandria means “Helper and defender of mankind”
How are you funded?
We are self-funded through the revenue from renting our property and from donations from individuals and corporations.
How do people find out about your services?
People are often referred by taxi drivers, private citizens and several of the local agencies who help in our community: Public Safety, The Harbor Office, USAFV, Local Churches, Airport personnel and Clinics.
Where do people go when they need your help?
When a person calls and asks for help, we arrange a time to meet with them to listen to their story, pray for them, help them contact family, and get their bearings. If they are hungry we will offer a meal. This initial meeting is usually at the Unalaska Christian Fellowship Church. If they need accommodations they are housed in the local hotel, or bunkhouse, or if the hotels and bunkhouses are full, we will take them into our homes.
How do you work with people who show up intoxicated?
If a person comes for help, but they are intoxicated, we have to ask them to come back when they are sober. After listening to their story, they are driven back to the place where they came from by staff, or taxi. Local authorities are called if the person appears to be at a level where they will be a danger to themselves or to others.
Have you had any problems with crime with the people you have helped?
Being proactive has reduced crime in the neighborhood. (Link to Matt Betzen’s letter at www.alexandriahouseak.com) Four times in 20 years the police have been called. Three times to trespass a person, (two individuals several agencies had also trespassed) and once the church office was broken into.
What is the Old Elbow Room/ Latitudes property going to be use for?
Revenue to self-fund the non-profit, help the stranded get on their feet and to pay for the expenses of maintaining the property. The Alexandria House does not receive grant money from the city. We want to remain self- funded.
Are you going to build a homeless shelter on the old Elbow Room/Latitudes property?
The zoning does not allow us. We are going to comply with the zoning regulations which are Commercial/Residential. Hospitality is up to the building resident and the building needs to generate income to pay for expenses.
How can I be trained to be a volunteer?
Volunteers work with a trainer until they are comfortable on their own. Volunteers are encouraged to work in pairs. If you are interested in helping consider a donation or contact John Honan (907) 359-2675.