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Cloquet program offers women safe harbor from addiction, homelessness

Hope Harbor, started in July 2020, offers women facing homelessness a long-term option while they continue recovery from addiction.

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Krysta Diver, of Cloquet, watches television in the living room of the Hope Harbor house Monday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
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Cloquet resident Krysta Diver had battled addiction and homelessness for much of the last five years. In 2020, the 26-year-old sought treatment for a heroin addiction at the Tagwii Recovery Center on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

Diver said she has been homeless — either living on the street or staying temporarily with friends — for more than five years. As she looked to leave Tagwii and begin reintegrating into the community, she was still having trouble finding a place to live.

Her case manager had heard about a new resource for women in Cloquet. Hope Harbor offers long-term housing for women facing homelessness or experiencing hardships, with assistance from Carlton County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health, according to Greta Winter-Jarvinen.

Winter-Jarvinen and co-founder Justine Pelletier opened the house in July, just as Diver was looking for a place that would support her as she continued her recovery.

“It’s been really good and they help out when they can,” Diver said. “They make sure people that are moving in are also sober and want to be sober. It’s beneficial to have somewhere to live with a sober companion and not being homeless on the street or living somewhere in a house that isn’t fit.”

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Hope Harbor co-founders Justine Pelletier (left) and Greta Winter-Jarvinen opened the house in July 2020. It offers long-term housing to women experiencing homelessness. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

LaNaya Wicklund moved into the Hope Harbor house a few months after Diver. Wicklund, 40, had been living with her husband and their children in Grand Rapids. Her husband relapsed into addiction and died of an overdose in 2019. Wicklund said she also “fell off the wagon,” eventually losing the house they owned and custody of her children.

After some time spent in the Itasca County Jail, Wicklund was encouraged to seek treatment and ended up in Cloquet’s Pioneer Treatment Center. Her case manager recommended Hope Harbor. Wicklund moved into the house in October.

Winter-Jarvinen stressed that Hope Harbor is not a “sober house” or a "halfway house," but offers a long-term housing option for its residents. Hope Harbor aims to help its clients work to put their lives back together and expects them to maintain their sobriety while living in the house. The support of others is crucial to the continued recovery.

“I’ve been clean and sober for 33 years and I’ve worked as an addiction counselor for many, many years,” Winter-Jarvinen said. “I know what they go through ... and if you’re not hanging out with good people, you’re going to go back to what you know.”

Since opening last year, Hope Harbor has had a waiting list of women. In fact, there has only been a four-week period with fewer than five women in the house, and even then, the open bed was waiting for a new resident.

Wicklund said Hope Harbor has been invaluable as she has continued her recovery the past six months.

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Greta Winter-Jarvinen (center) and Justine Pelletier help LaNaya Wicklund fill out some paperwork for a Section 8 housing voucher at Hope Harbor on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Cloquet. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

“It’s a great living space and they are willing to provide you with programming,” Wicklund said. “They will drive to doctor’s appointments or recovery meetings. Anything that you need, they’re always available to answer questions or help with things.”

Hope Harbor received a rush of donations around the holidays, allowing Winter-Jarvinen and Pelletier to provide a few gifts and a small celebration.

"Seeing the girls — some of who have never had a Christmas — sit and open up presents and get brand-new things — that was one of the funnest things to watch,” Pelletier said.

Hope Harbor hasn’t been without issues during its first year, but it has also provided needed housing that otherwise wouldn’t have been available, according to Winter-Jarvinen.

“There’s always going to be problems when you’re working with people with addiction,” she said. “That was a rough situation and it didn’t go well, but, for the most part, we’ve got some good, stable people in there and if they’re not, we ask them to go back to treatment or find alternative housing. We just won’t allow any kind of drug use in the house.”

Residents look to next steps

After nine months living at Hope Harbor, Diver is beginning to look for a permanent place to live on her own — not an easy task in Cloquet, even for someone without a history of homelessness. She has a goal of moving out before the end of the year, but even low-income options are proving to be a challenge.

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“I’m not going to give up, but all these places around Cloquet have no apartments open,” Diver said. “Or if they are offering Section 8, not really anybody is getting in unless they’re pregnant or have a kid or something. They go first — I understand that — but there are people that are actually homeless and trying to turn their lives around. They’re not getting any help.”

While Winter-Jarvinen is also concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Cloquet, she also emphasized the long-term stay at Hope Harbor, especially if that helps keep residents like Diver on the road to recovery.

“Krysta has been there since July and she can stay as long as they need to,” Winter-Jarvinen said. “We would rather have them stay, even if they don’t find other housing. She’s applying for jobs; she’s very stable."

Section 8 housing is the federal government's major program for assisting low-income families, seniors and disabled people afford housing in the private market, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

Wicklund was recently approved for a Section 8 voucher and Diver said she was planning to apply for the program in the next few days. She hopes to find a place in the next two months, but recognizes it could be longer.

“This place has been a great transition to be able to wait for Section 8 to open and help me get through until I was able to start looking for my own place,” Wicklund said.

This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. April 13 to correct the name of Hope Harbor. It was originally posted at 6:25 a.m. April 13. The Pine Journal regrets the error.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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