Community members are invited to peek behind the doors of Tabitha Apartments, Harbor House Crisis Shelter’s permanent supportive housing building, during a grand opening celebration Oct. 7. The event takes place from 4-6 p.m. at 1022 Harrison St.
The five-apartment building will provide supportive housing with no end date for homeless families and single women. Harbor House Executive Director Chelsea Branley said four of the apartments have tenants waiting, including a family of six currently living in one of the ministry’s transitional housing units. The woman has been humble, Branley said.
“We brought her here to show her this and she was crying,” she said. “This is a big step for her.”
In Wisconsin, 4,538 people were considered homeless on a given night in 2019, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That's about 8 people per 10,000 residents. Tabitha Apartments are meant to be a stepping stone to help people get out of homelessness.
Every family who moves into Tabitha Apartments will pay rent, with the rent going toward the costs of the program. The end goal is for families to break down barriers and move on to a home of their own.
“This isn’t forever,” Branley said, but there isn’t a time limit. “So if they need five years to build up a good rental history so they can move on, so be it.”
Harbor House Crisis Shelters, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church, purchased the building in 2017. It had been sitting vacant for 10 years, Branley said, and required extensive renovations. The work was fueled by grants and an outpouring of donations from the community.
“It was a shell,” Branley said. “It’s been really beautiful to watch it go from what it was to what it is now.”
During a tour of the space Sept. 10, only plumbing and heating were left to complete. The tenants, including 10 school-aged children, are expected to move in some time in October.
Branley’s favorite spot is a nook on the landing outfitted with a bookshelf, table, chairs and artwork.
“I just wanted to have a space for them to be able to chill in the morning or read a book,” said Branley, who donated many of the children’s books that filled the shelf.
The tour will give donors and those curious about the program a close look at the space.
The apartments are located close to schools, the bus line and college, which increases opportunities for the families. One tenant has a year to go on her bachelor’s degree, Branley said, and another was recently accepted into the automotive technician program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
Tabitha Apartments are named after a disciple of Jesus who was known for her good works and who the Apostle Peter raised from the dead in the town of Lydda (Acts 9:36-42). Harbor House Crisis Shelters also provides emergency shelter for up to 30 days at two different sites in Superior and 24-month transitional housing units. The new program adds a third component to the ministry.
“It’s just another asset for the community," Branley said.
This story was updated at 2:05 p.m. Sept. 21 with a new open house date after Harbor House Crisis Shelter rescheduled it. The story was initially published on Sept. 15 at 6 a.m.