IMPACT
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pastor Dreams of Turning Infamous Alaskan Bar Into Shelter

In remote Dutch Harbor Alaska, a fishing island 800 miles from Anchorage, Pastor John Honan has a dream. He hopes to convert the Elbow Room, one of the most notorious drinking establishments in North America, into a shelter for transient workers.

But as the New York Times explains, the story is more complicated than one man's altruistic notion. Honan has been helping aspiring fisherman since 1994, who are lured to Dutch Harbor by the possibility of large sums of quick cash through dangerous fishing expeditions. The influx of workers has grown recently with the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. But once these workers have made the long and costly trip to the marine town, they find themselves stranded by lack of work in one of the most remote places in the U.S.

Dutch Harbor currently has no permanent facility to provide temporary shelter for those stranded there. But Honan's idea to build a facility on the spot of the infamous Elbow Room is receiving pushback from local residents who are afraid of a return to the area's "Wild West" reputation.
In its heyday in the 1970s and '80s, the bar typified Alaska's gritty frontier, with a clientele of violent and high-rolling crab fishermen with little to do but drink.

The bar finally closed in 2007 and now stands empty, but neighbors are afraid that collecting unemployed fishermen in the same spot might lead to a return to the town's rough past.
"It has been a hole to hell for a lot of relationships and a lot of lives," Honan told the New York Times. "It could become a place where people could find help, find hope."

Visit the New York Times to watch the full video on Honan and his dream.

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