Harbor House Combating Homelessness in Superior

Felicity Bosk 

Graph caption: The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Nov. 2016
Graph caption: The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Nov. 2016

In Superior, homelessness is a hidden problem. 

“You don’t see very many people pushing shopping carts or huddled by docks or under bridges,” said Barb Certa-Werner, the executive director of Harbor House Crisis Shelter. “It’s kind of the hidden secret problem in our community that people don’t want to talk about or don’t want to acknowledge we have.” 

People talk a lot about of homelessness in Duluth, and Superior is no exception to this problem. This past year, there were over 7000 shelter nights in Superior. A shelter night is how many people are in a shelter on a single night, meaning on average about 20 people were in a Harbor House shelter every night of 2017. With such a high need, Harbor House has been at full capacity all year. 

Finding a place to stay can become more urgent this time of year when temperatures stay below zero for days at a time. In Superior, Harbor House is a resource for single woman and families needing a place to stay. For single men,  there is Solid Rock Safe Haven. For domestic violence victims, there is CASDA. Certa-Werner said some people, though, chose to stay outside. 

To keep track of the homeless population beyond those in shelters, Certa-Werner and several others go out twice a year to do a “point-in-time” count. In January and July they go to places people without homes spend the night around Superior and see how many there are. These places include parks, under bridges, and the Walmart parking lot. She said they are required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to do these counts which contributes to their funding. 

“I keep saying this over and over again and people aren’t getting it,” she said. “Homelessness is a symptom of a bigger problem. Yes we can provide housing but it’s not addressing the other problems that have created the homeless problem and until we get to those other causes we are going to continue to see people that are homeless.” 

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness there are nearly 6000 homeless people in Wisconsin as of the community point-in-time counts done in January 2016, but almost 400 less than the year before. Nationally, 68 percent of homeless people are in shelters according to HUD and 42 percent are not sheltered. 

People can help the homeless in our community by donating money or supplies to organizations like Harbor House, Solid Rock, or CASDA. You can also volunteer to help these organizations. Certa-Werner said that volunteers are needed and to help with the point-in-time count coming up and to contact the Harbor House Crisis Shelter if you’re interested in volunteering.