Harbor: 1. a place of security and comfort: refuge. 2. a part of a body of water protected and deep enough to furnish anchorage. That is how Webster's dictionary defines a harbor. The residents that live at the Harbor, a homeless shelter in Miami call it a home, a port in the storm, a safe place to rest and grow stronger in the midst of and after a storm, the real, emotional and physical ones.
On Saturday, the newest facility to be called the Harbor at 114 D Street NE in Miami and will open it's doors to those that are in need with nowhere else to go. The new Harbor building can hold 30 or more homeless. Residents will begin moving in within the next couple of weeks.
Since the flood of July 2007 that destroyed the facility located at Eastgate the Harbor was relocated at what is now the Apostolic Church building at 130 A Street which currently houses 15 men. The building at 114 D Street NE was then purchased for $105,000 and the renovations began. Dedicated and determined volunteers, residents, and church members have worked many long, hard hours to complete the necessary work.
The newly renovated Harbor building is located centrally on the truck route and was once a furniture store then Zac's, a teen hangout. The building allows residents close access to the post office, library and the courthouse.
Phil Shyers, Pastor of the Apostolic Church who's spearheaded the leadership for the project over the years said the new 10,000 square foot facility was a $450,000 plus project. He said,"We just want to show this great asset we're going to have in northeast Oklahoma."
He is proud of the commitment of the community in staying with the project and completing and supporting it. Like any building project it came with ups and downs and obstacles, for example roofing, doors, plumbing, windows, fire and city codes and insulation dilemmas that were all worked out. "If you'd have told me it would take a half million dollars to renovate the building before we started I would never have got involved or thought it could be done," Shyers said with a laugh.
Shyers said there was so much in-kind donation and churches, tribes, businesses and individual and community donations, as well as the grants that support the Harbor. " If we don't get donations we can't help people. We can't give what we don't have.We have a nice facility and it's going to be a blessing," he said.
The new facility will allow housing for both men and women and some additional spaces for housing families. Stella Shyers is the case manager for the Harbor and is available to the residents to help them in accessing assistance, applying for grants, disability and other programs. Stella Shyers said, "You want it to feel like home."
Phil Shyers said, "Our philosophy is it's a place where people can get hand up, not hand out."
Residents are referred by the 211 information system, churches, police, jails, and parole officers. "I mean just about everybody knows. We're the only one between here and Tulsa," Shyers said.
The Harbor now has a security camera system and fire protection sprinkler system for safety. A welcoming decorated foyer area allows a place for visitors to come.
There is a a new galley style kitchen with a spacious dining area for the residents that has been installed. Shyers said he has plans to invite community groups or churches to come to the Harbor once a month to make dinner for the residents and to build community connections and involvement.
Laundry areas for the residents are also part of the new Harbor.
There are separate men's and women's sections with individual beds and dressers in dorm style rooms, and restrooms and shower facilities for each section. Each section also has a communal area for watching TV or gathering. There is a handicap accessible room for those with disabilities also.
There are a few rooms nicely decorated and set up to accommodate a family comfortably. The family rooms are even furnished with toys to make it a better experience for young children. Shyers said the Harbor had not been able to house families since the flood. He said these rooms are meant to be short term instead of churches having to pay for stays in hotels for those found stranded or homeless.
There are"transitional"rooms for long term residents who are working toward moving out into their own residence. Shyers said, "They may be working on getting disability, or working to pay child support or fines and couldn't afford housing, or we have two residents going to school and working toward that goal."
An open house will be held from noon-5 p.m. to allow the public to tour the newly renovated Harbor, and light refreshments served with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. For information, to donate, sponsor a room or volunteer call the Harbor at 918-542-LOVE or the Apostolic Church at 918-540-0044.
While still houses at the church the Harbor shelter was capable of housing men only there. The Harbor was able to use Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program grant of $428,000 of funding to help over 400 families or individuals stay in their home or get in a home. Homeless Management Information System will have an office at the facility to make data entries to track the number of homeless served in the community, which is a requirement for grant purposes.
The Ministerial Alliance will be office in the building too and will be open to assist those in need of help.
Dwight Allen, the on-site supervisor will be living at the Harbor to help oversee the residents and is also helping to prepare the Harbor for it's new residents. Allen said.