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New director takes helm of Harbor House

A longtime case worker with the ministry, Krystal Brandstatter stepped into the leadership role Nov. 15.

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Chelsea Branley, left, outgoing executive director for Harbor House Crisis Shelter, stands beside incoming executive director Krystal Brandstatter on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 at Faith United Methodist Church.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A new executive director has been chosen to lead Harbor House Crisis Shelter, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church.

Krystal Brandstatter, a case manager at Harbor House for nearly 14 years, stepped into the position Nov. 15.

“Krystal has been here the longest of anybody here and has seen change — a variety of changes with staff, with directors and just has a lot to offer,” said outgoing executive director Chelsea Branley. “She’s really passionate about Harbor House."

After earning a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in the fall of 2009, Brandstatter began working part-time at Harbor House, eventually moving to full-time. She has seen the ministry expand to include transitional housing and permanent supportive housing; she’s been there through staffing and leadership changes.

“I’m really excited to see this through, to get started to continue on what Harbor House is known for,” Brandstatter said. “We serve homeless (people) well and I want to see that happen into the future.”

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The new director was raised in New Auburn, a small town of 485 near Eau Claire.

“Growing up, I had an easy childhood, and I had no idea homelessness was a thing until I came up here,” Brandstatter said.

After people close to her experienced homelessness and following coursework at UWS on mental health and addiction, she felt driven to make a difference.

“So if I could be one of those people who works with others and can help them, I wanted to do that,” Brandstatter said.

She finds joy in celebrating accomplishments with clients.

“You can take somebody who has nothing, who’s terrified, who feels like their life is not going to get better and they have nothing to live for, and put them into shelter. And every single accomplishment that they have you celebrate with them,” Brandstatter said.

She has seen clients move forward to find jobs and housing of their own.

“And when they get an apartment and their face lights up, and they tell you that they have a home — that’s what makes it worth it. It makes everything worth it, and it doesn’t get old. Fourteen years later, I still get excited with them,” Brandstatter said.

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She takes over from Branley, who has led the ministry since 2019.

“We appreciate Chelsea. We appreciate everything she brought to the table. She led us through a pandemic, something nobody’s ever done before,” Brandstatter said.

Branley was at the forefront of opening the ministry’s permanent supportive housing facility, Tabitha Apartments, in 2020, and incorporated art intervention services and recovery programming at the shelters.

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Krystal Brandstatter, left, new executive director for Harbor House Crisis Shelter, stands with outgoing executive director Chelsea Branley on Thursday, Nov. 10, at Faith United Methodist Church.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“I found that my season was done. I did what I thought I was capable of doing and it’s time for a leadership change,” Branley said.

She now works at Life House in Duluth, a program providing support and transitional housing for homeless and street youth ages 14-24.

“I love everything about it. I get to utilize my art with youth and that’s just really my skill set,” Branley said. “I’m not built for administration.”

Her last day was Nov. 15, but Branley said she’ll still be in touch and continue to support Harbor House. Brandstatter said she hopes to continue the partnership with Branley to provide art interventions for clients.

Switching to one shelter

Leadership isn’t the only thing that’s changing for Harbor House. The ministry is planning to close its two crisis shelters and replace them with one site that will serve the same number of clients — six families and four singles.

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“We are actually in the process of working to acquire a new building,” Brandstatter said.

In addition to bringing all the clients under one roof, the new building would have a room equipped for telehealth services and mental health counseling, an office on the main level and be more secure than the two houses currently in use.

“And it’s also going to be on the bus line,” said Brandstatter, who serves on the board of directors for the Duluth Transit Authority.

Bus routes to change

The Harbor House shelter in South Superior is near the bus line now, but it won’t be come summer.

Bus service in Superior will begin new routing in June 2023 as part of the DTA’s Better Bus Blueprint, according to Dave Clark, director of marketing for the DTA. The data-driven system redesign is under the umbrella of the Better DTA Movement, which has been in development for five years. The movement includes better bus stops, technology innovations such as mobile apps and mobile payments, and fare capping.

“We’ll be one of the first mid-sized systems to do a redesign since the pandemic,” Clark said. “So we’re excited to see what opportunities there are for ridership.”

Buses currently travel as far south as Superior Meats. Once the new route takes effect in June, the furthest south the DTA will go is Aldi’s at North 46th Street.

“Optimizing service for those in the areas where there is ridership, or significant ridership, was the priority identified by the city of Superior,” Clark said.

Visit the DTA's Better Bus Blueprint website or Facebook page for more information on upcoming route changes. Visit the Harbor House Crisis Shelters website or Facebook page for more information on the ministry.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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