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Superior's Oasis Kare forced to close

The Superior Housing Authority's eviction of long-time residents and child care providers doesn't sit well with families affected.

David and Diana Deeth push Rocky Miller, 3, front left, and Clayton Heikkila, 7, on the swings at Oasis Kare.
David and Diana Deeth push Rocky Miller, 3, front left, and Clayton Heikkila, 7, on the swings at Oasis Kare, the daycare they run in their Superior home Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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David and Diana Deeth of Allouez are about to lose their home and livelihood.

The home-based day care they’ve operated since 1997, Oasis Kare, is going to be forced to close.

Eleven families the Deeths provide licensed child care services to won’t have a place where their children feel safe and loved while their parents attend classes or head off to work.

The Superior Housing Authority, which issued an eviction order to the Deeths on Jan. 10 for the home they’ve occupied for 28 years, says they are following U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines to meet community need.

The Deeths are losing their home because their children have grown up and moved onto independent lives from their parents.

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Under HUD guidelines, the couple is “over housed,” which means they live in a unit that doesn’t have the minimum number of bedrooms required for a family of their size. The couple lives in a three-bedroom house.

HUD guidelines state that a three-bedroom unit should have a minimum of four family members and a maximum of six or eight if a living room is also used as a sleeping area. Based on HUD guidelines, the Deeths only qualify for a one-bedroom unit.

“The Superior Housing Authority for many, many years has not had a waiting list per se in our larger size units,” said Pam Benson, director of the Superior Housing Authority. “As long we didn’t have a waiting list and still had larger size units coming available, then we weren’t requiring people to move.”

She said with COVID-19 and the current housing shortage, the housing authority now has a waiting list for larger units and must right-size its units to provide housing for those in need.

Clayton Heikkila, 7, left, and David Deeth look at a book about bees
Clayton Heikkila, 7, left, and David Deeth look at a book about bees at Oasis Kare, the day care Deeth and his wife run in their Superior home Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Time to move

Parrish Jones, an attorney representing the Superior Housing Authority, said the issue started in 2021, when the housing authority began a complex process to restructure its properties, which includes remodeling some of its units. He said tenants of those unit began to be notified in July.

Benson said plans include remodeling 25 of its outdated units. Because the project includes remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, the homes would be uninhabitable during the construction project.

As a result, the housing authority has been relocating families, some temporarily and some permanently because of their family composition.

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Benson said notifications started in July and the timeline for relocating people has varied because of individual circumstances.

Diana Deeth said she was notified Aug. 5 and was told she had to be out by the end of the month, which wouldn’t have given her enough time to reestablish the business. She said the one-bedroom unit she qualified for was insufficient to accommodate the child care she provides, and finding another place and re-licensing would take more time.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Child and Family Services, the Oasis Kare license held by Diana Deeth allows them to care for eight children younger than age 7, day and night.

A collaborative effort by the community, the center is housed in a former church.

“We started this 25 years ago with the blessing of the housing authority and administration at that time,” David Deeth said. “Our children were raised in that unit and eventually grew up and moved out … but the bedrooms are being utilized.”

The order issued Jan. 10 gave the Deeths until Tuesday, Jan 18, to remove their belongings and turn in their keys; the couple was still in the home Tuesday, caring for children.

David Deeth said he understood that the housing authority would forcefully evict them with a court action for their failure to comply with the order.

“We have no place to go to,” he said. “We can’t financially do it. Even if we wanted to, we can’t, so we're just going to continue to operate the day care, and we’re seeking out opportunities.”

His wife said they could have left, giving themselves and the housing authority the outcome they want, if they had more time.

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A picture of David and Diana Deeth with a child that attended their day care is framed in a Best Daycare Ever picture frame
A picture of David and Diana Deeth with a child that attended their daycare is framed in a Best Daycare Ever picture frame at Oasis Kare, the daycare they run in their Superior home Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Broader impact

The families that utilize Oasis Kare say the eviction doesn’t just affect the Deeths’ livelihood, but theirs as well. They took their case to the city council Tuesday night as Councilor Jenny Van Sickle works to find a solution.

“We are going to lose our day care and it’s really a short notice,” said Cheri Russell, whose granddaughter, Rose, is cared for by the Deeths. “It’s really going to affect our family because there’s not a lot of good, affordable day cares in the area.”

Trenton Tyykila, a single father, said his 3½-year-old son, Oliver, attends Oasis Kare, and loves it. As a single parent, he said finding day care that worked with his custody schedule was very difficult. He said the ones that did have openings charged fees to save a place for his son when he wasn’t with him, making child care more expensive.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have any child care,” said Carlene Johnson, whose children have gone to Oasis Kare for three years. “I’m a full-time student. I work. I don’t have a very good family system, and the Deeths have become like family to me.”

Johnson said when she needed help, the Deeths provided it.

“Moving to Superior, I wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been living here if it wasn’t for them,” Johnson said.

Tim Meyer is an architect working on the housing authority project and the father of a 5-year-old who went to Oasis Kare for three years. He said he understands the housing authority’s concern about complying with HUD’s guidelines and the potential risk of losing funding for failing to comply.

Nonetheless, he said “this is heartbreaking the way this was handled; this is absolutely a resource that Superior needs … we cannot afford to lose any child care in our communities.”

Diana Deeth holds Rocky Miller, 3, as he looks at a globe
Diana Deeth holds Rocky Miller, 3, as he looks at a globe at Oasis Kare, the day care Deeth and her husband run in their Superior home Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Competing missions

Jones said he sympathizes with the families who will lose their child care; it’s been a struggle his own family has faced.

However, he said the Superior Housing Authority is in the business of providing residential housing for residents of Superior, regulated by the state and federal government, with HUD supplying a significant source of its funding.

He said families on the waiting list are rent-burdened, or homeless, or facing homelessness.

“We're limited, by law, from prioritizing commercial activities, no matter how important,” Jones said. “And I don’t intend to downplay the importance of day care. It is very important. But we’re required to prioritize residences to families who qualify.”

Mayor Jim Paine said when he initially heard the Deeth's story, he sympathized but assumed it was simply the unpleasant application of policy. However, he said after receiving a complaint from the attorney who represented the couple on Jan. 10, he is going to be taking a deeper look at the issue.

David Deeth said he realizes he and Diana are going to have to move on; now it’s a matter of coming up with the resources to do it.

“We don’t have any place to go,” David Deeth said. “We don’t have any way to provide income for ourselves either. We’ll be holding out cardboard signs ‘will work for food’ because we don’t have any alternative.”

Clayton Heikkila, 7, left, clears the table as David Deeth, right, looks over some of the Thank You art they’ve received
Clayton Heikkila, 7, left, clears the table as David Deeth, right, looks over some of the Thank You art they’ve received from families, as Diana Deeth holds Rocky Miller, 3, at Oasis Kare, the dayc are they run in their Superior home Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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