Superior now has an overnight warming center.

The Ruth House Night Warming Center at 1901 N. 12th St. will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on nights when the temperature dips to 19 degrees or lower. It can accept up to 10 people per night - five men and five women.

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The move fills a void in the city, said Public Information Officer Bradley Jago with the Superior Police Department.

"It's often difficult for a night shift officer to help someone find a place to stay for the night," he said. "The only options in the past have been CHUM (homeless shelter) or detox."

Both of those are in Duluth.

Although it's uncommon, Jago said he has arrested people in the past who committed property damage crimes, then turned themselves in so they could stay in the Douglas County Jail on a cold night.

"If this option had existed at that time, perhaps those crimes would not have been committed," Jago said.

By day, Ruth House is a clean, sober drop-in center. Since it opened Dec. 1, volunteers said, the faith-based, nondenominational ministry has welcomed about 80 people, some of whom have become regulars.

Ruth House offers a helping hand to those who are homeless, underprivileged and those coming out of addiction. Options include free GED classes and resume building, casework and transportation.

"It's all about help, if you actually want it," said Jim Love, who first visited Ruth House a week ago. "It's done me a world of good. I've been sober since I started coming here."

Volunteers with Ruth House helped him fix a medical insurance issue and secure an identification card. Love has given back by shoveling snow and cleaning at the house.

"We try to meet them where they're at," said Jack Swonger, community outreach pastor for Walking Victorious, the nonprofit street, jail and prison ministry Ruth House currently operates under. "It may be something as simple as dry clothing or a shower. It may be something to eat, whatever."

Ruth House volunteers work with people to break down barriers they're facing. Those not involved in programs at the house are provided transportation to volunteer at the Damiano Center in Duluth or other sites in the Twin Ports.

"We don't want to enable people, we want to empower them," said volunteer Chrissy Foster, who runs the education program. "We want them to feel they are capable and they have people behind them supporting them along that journey."

The addition of an overnight warming center was a logical next step.

"It needs to be here," Swonger said.

Another location in Superior is taking steps to open a larger warming center, but Ruth House is providing that option now.

The privately funded ministry is run by a committee and expects to step out from under the umbrella of Walking Victorious once it secures its own nonprofit status. Volunteers are always needed, as well as donations of hygiene supplies, household cleaners and items like space heaters.

The clean, sober drop in center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, contact walkingvictorious@gmail.com or call 715-392-2833. The phone number will be operational as of Thursday, Jan. 3.

Need for shelter

Another nonprofit in Superior is seeking to increase its outreach to the homeless. On Dec. 6, Harbor House Crisis Shelters posted a request on Facebook.

"We are actively looking for an additional donated building for emergency shelters for families," it said.

According to Barb Certa-Werner, executive director of Harbor House, their shelter sites were at capacity nearly all of 2018.

"This means that when someone calls for shelter, we must divert them," she said. "Diversion means a hotel room funded by another community organization or to a shelter across the bridge in Duluth. The last resort is sending Wisconsin residents across the bridge since this complicates transportation to school and services."

In July, Harbor House, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church, purchased a five-unit building in Superior for permanent supportive housing. But it will cost an estimated $158,000 for materials and labor to renovate the building. The need for emergency housing is immediate.

"Our hope is that someone out there has a home to donate that we can easily convert into a shelter," Certa-Werner said. "We hope that this will come sooner than later to accommodate the higher need for shelter during the spring and summer."

For more information, visit harborhousecs.org or the Harbor House Facebook page.