Building a Community of Hope in Wilkes-Barre

The City of Wilkes-Barre is in desperate need for one location that will invite men and women experiencing homelessness to a hub of transformation. Currently in the city, there is no day center, drop-in-center, or programming where those experiencing homelessness can come and receive such assistance.

Men and women are left to roam the streets endlessly without help, a future, or hope. According to the National Endless Homelessness Alliance, in 2021 Pennsylvania jumped from number ten to number eight in the nation for the most homeless. It’s a global challenge that is evident here at home, as a significant number of those people can be found in Wilkes-Barre.

The available programs in the city are as follows: Ruth’s Place for women, the Saint Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen for meals, and Mother Teresa’s Haven, a traveling shelter. These organizations do good work but can only extend services so far. There is a greater need still unmet. To complete the continuum of service and help people move beyond homelessness, Keystone Mission’s vision is to open the doors to the Innovation Center for Homeless and Poverty in Wilkes-Barre.

The new Innovation Center will have operational hours, Monday through Friday, during the day. Men and women experiencing homelessness will have a place that provides a nutritious meal, intentional programming that starts a foundation to life change, and a supportive staff and community that sits and listens to their stories. All it takes for change to become real is a community willing to provide a hub of support.

The design of the Innovation Center programming is built on a foundation of holistic change. The Keystone Mission is a faith-based organization and believes that faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ can produce real change in a person’s life. The programs offered are centered around Life-Skill Training, Job Readiness Training, Self-Care, and Spiritual Training. Keystone Mission is also redesigning its Day Center to launch this same program for the men and women experiencing homelessness in Scranton.

Many guests the Keystone Mission encounters have one of the following challenges— drug addiction, alcohol addiction, mental illness, or a combination of multiple issues. Regarding women, the organization may encounter cases of domestic abuse. Staff will start by learning their story, obtaining their government IDs, accessing medical or mental health providers, and potentially enrolling the guests into a drug or alcohol treatment center. We’ve learned from experience that you need to address the guests’ physical and physiological needs before you can move forward.

It’s important to note that most programming will be provided in partnership with existing community agencies, colleges, and professionals. Why reinvent the wheel if established organizations and businesses are already providing the services? A community can thrive if it links together to help one another—giving hope. That’s why Keystone Mission’s tagline is “Building a Community of Hope.”

Keystone Mission is excited about its future in Wilkes-Barre because we’ve seen and heard first-hand the roadblocks people in need experience when seeking assistance. One in particular is obtaining a government ID. It is incredibly difficult for them to obtain a driver’s license, one’s birth certificate, or social security card. For instance, in the State of Pennsylvania, obtaining a driver’s license or REAL ID both require a birth certificate or social security card. However, if guests do not have a birth certificate or social security card, they would need a photo ID to obtain one of those important documents. It’s a tedious and detailed process, and many have difficulty navigating it without help.

At the Keystone Mission, staff have been educated in how best to assist. We build the right relationships with government agencies to help guests obtain these IDs the right way. No short-cuts are taken, and the guests then have an established ID; a first step in their holistic transformation.

Because of programs like the Innovation Center for Homeless and Poverty, the future for the City of Wilkes-Barre is bright. This bright future is only made possible through community partnerships that lay the bricks of hope men and women experiencing homelessness can walk upon.

You now have an opportunity to be a voice and help the Keystone Mission establish this important program in Wilkes-Barre. Please join us in this effort to not simply get people off the streets, but help them transform their lives and become contributing members of our community.

Justin Behrens, LSW, is CEO and Executive Director of Keystone Mission – Building a Community of Hope to Transform Lives.

No Comments

Post A Comment