Harbor House Crisis Shelters in Superior was one of 13 agencies statewide to receive a Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness grant this month. The $25,000 grant will be used to continue renovations on five units of permanent supportive housing.
Executive Director Chelsea Branley, who stepped into the position July 1, said it was the first grant she applied for.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the awards Sept. 18. A total of $500,000 was distributed. Forty-four agencies in 25 counties responded to the request for applications, totaling over $3 million in requests. A committee of council members scored the applications and the grants were awarded to the applications that scored highest.
In 2018, Harbor House provided 6,549 shelter nights to 408 people through its two emergency shelters. Its transitional living shelter has provided 38 individuals with housing, case management and life skills.
Both the emergency and transitional living shelters come with a time limit. Clients can stay 45 days in emergency shelter, 24 months in transitional living. When finished, the permanent supportive housing building would offer five families shelter and other benefits, such as case management and services, with no set expiration date.
“To give them time to get acquainted with how to establish themselves and get employment and get daycare,” Branley said. “It’s a lot for a single mom to figure out how to do all that stuff and figure out where she’s going to live.”
Residents would pay rent, which would make the program self-sustaining.
Work on the building near the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus has been ongoing. The structure sat vacant for a decade before Harbor House moved in, Branley said. Basement repair, which included replacing 100-year-old structural supports, was completed in May. Private donors have been stepping up to adopt apartments.
Branley said the state funds would be earmarked for plumbing, heating and electrical work at the building. She expects a few of the units to be up and running within the next five months.
The project has received support from the city of Superior, community members, local businesses, faith groups and the state, including a $25,000 WHEDA grant in November.
“I think as time has gone on, people are more able to understand the need that our community has for this,” Branley said.
Approximately 500 people in Douglas County are homeless on any given day, she said. That includes people who are couch-surfing or doubled up with other families.
“What I’ve noticed is that people don’t realize how many homeless people there are in our community, how many homeless kids are going to school with their own children,” Branley said.
It can hit close to home, and it can affect just about anybody. Even Branley.
“I’m only one tragic event away from being homeless,” she said.
In addition to funds, volunteers are needed to help complete the renovation project.
“We really hope that folks will continue to see the need and help us help our community,” Branley said.