Bethel Winter House will soon have its own building to operate a year-round homeless shelter. On Sept. 22, the Bethel City Council agreed to sell the old senior center in Housing Subdivision to Winter House for $1.
The city council is allowed to sell the building and the land for less than fair market value because the property will be used for a “necessary public service.”
If Bethel Winter House fails to provide a necessary public service in the future, for example, if the organization were to stop operating a homeless shelter, then the land and the building would revert back to the city’s possession. While the shelter is operational, the city will provide free water, sewer, and garbage services to the facility, which Winter House will renovate.
During the council meeting, Winter House President Jon Cochrane predicted that the homeless shelter would actually save the city money.
“When we are open, police calls go down, EMS calls go down, visits to the emergency room go down,” Cochrane said. “Having us available saves the city a lot of money.”
Cochrane said that it will take anywhere from $800,000 to $1.5 million to get the old building back up to code and transformed into what they plan. He said that the organization already has most of that money from grants. The new location would be more than a place for the homeless to sleep. It would include meals for the seniors, and behavioral health services.
Bethel Winter House’s new shelter still needs to go through the city’s conditional use permitting process. Neighbors within 600 feet of the property will be notified of the intent to use the old senior center as a homeless shelter. They will be able to voice their opinion at the public works committee meeting on Oct. 1.