Drop-in center for young people set to open in Superior
The safe space brings together a host of services, from laundry facilities to Wi-Fi access for young people ages 12-21.
SUPERIOR — Project Reach Out is expanding its reach with a new drop-in center for young people ages 12-21 in Superior.
The safe space, nestled into the Human Development Center building at 1500 N. 34th St., Suite 100, brings the many services the program provides together under one roof — free food, laundry facilities, shower access, a food shelf, clothing and hygiene closet as well as advocates ready to help with crisis intervention, case management and referral services. New amenities will include Wi-Fi access, computers, a fridge and a stove to prepare hot meals on.
“The Wi-Fi is really important, because a lot of youth have phones, but no phone minutes and they need to be able to contact friends and family,” said Project Reach Out supervisor Tanya Nelson.
An open house for the space will take place from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 14. Visitors can take a tour, enjoy light snacks and get updated teen crisis cards and brochures. The center will be open from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Dec. 14.
“We’ve already been bringing some of our youth in here to use the facilities,” said runaway homeless youth coordinator Katie Modin. “So it’s been nice because they’ve just been able to swing by and ‘Hey, I need a gas card' or whatever.”
Project Reach Out is a runaway, homeless and at-risk youth advocacy program based in Superior that provides services to young people ages 12-21 in northwest Wisconsin. The voluntary program supports youth with life skills, stable housing, jobs, education assistance and connections to community resources. It also provides a 24/7 teen helpline: 715-394-9177 or 1-800-777-7844.
“We can go over the pros and cons of the decisions they’re making and hold them accountable, but in the end we’re not telling them what to do,” Nelson said. “And so I think when they successfully reach their goals, then they can ultimately be proud of themselves for reaching that goal … in the end we’re making sure that they’re getting all the resources that they need so that they can be independent on their own.”
The new drop-in center was made possible through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Nelson envisions movie nights in the hangout area of the space, as well as a family style meal once a week. Support groups or classes on anti-trafficking or runaway prevention can meet in a separate room, or it could serve as a private space for young people who need crisis intervention.
“It's exciting to see all of the work come together as the new drop-in center opens. It will extend extra support beyond the school day to youth who are in housing transition or who may feel they're unsafe at home,” said Amy Warring, Superior Middle School counselor and former family services coordinator for the Superior School District.
In a stroke of good luck, the human resources department of HDC was moving to Duluth just about the time the new funding was announced. The move opened up an entire wing of the building, which was renovated to create the drop-in center. Having the center in-house means that it could become self-sustaining after the grant ends, Nelson said, because they won’t have to pay rent for the space.
Nelson has been with Project Reach Out for eight years. The job involves a lot of grant writing and behind-the-scenes work, but what keeps her motivated is working with young people.
“I love working with youth. There’s been a lot of kids I’ve been really close to. (With) this program, relationship building is one of the most important things,” Nelson said.
Those connections have lasted.
“I’ve had youth that have called me when they had their first baby or when they’re getting married. Years later they still have my number programmed on their phone, and I think that’s really special,” Nelson said.
The work Project Reach Out does is critical, Warring said.
“Tanya Nelson and her staff are instrumental in promoting the safety and well-being of teens in our community including providing for basic needs, assisting with obtaining records needed for employment, and teaching life skills like conflict resolution or how to shop for groceries or use public transportation,” Warring said. “Our community has a definite need for these services, and it's so encouraging to see this progress.”