Keystone Mission is in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. HOPE is found HERE!

Wilkes-Barre Council awards over $100,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to Keystone Mission

Contributed by Hannah Simerson, Times Leader

Wilkes-Barre, PA — The city took a step toward alleviating the struggles of homelessness during Thursday night’s combined city council session. Council members unanimously approved the awarding of $109,500 in American Rescue Plan funds to Keystone Mission, a faith-based nonprofit.

The funding will help the emergency shelter expand its hours to operate overnight housing each night for the next year, after which Keystone Mission will fund the costs on its own.

As it stands, the shelter is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to Mayor George Brown, expanding the hours is a step in the right direction.

“This is something that I think is very important, and I’m behind this 100%,” Brown said.

“Instead of going along the river or under the bridges, now there will be a place for the homeless people to go– which is very important because it is a major issue for the city that we’re dealing with,” he added.

Keystone Mission, which operates shelters in both Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, opened its Wilkes-Barre location in October of last year, and Keystone Mission CEO and executive director Danielle O. Keith-Alexander says the shelter has serviced an average of 50-60 individuals per day.

Aside from providing physical shelter, Keystone Mission offers help with obtaining identifying documentation, housing application assistance, educational programs in addition to free haircuts, meals, laundry services, clothing, showers and more.

“The aim is so that once they are positioned and poised to go forward, that they will be able to function totally on their own,” said Keith-Alexander, who noted that Keystone Mission will be able to provide overnight services for approximately 50 homeless individuals at a time.

Council responded positively to the presentation, and Councilman Stan Mirin agreed that the agenda item was positive for the city.

“It’s a great idea. I pass there all the time and I see the families out there waiting and it’s kind of heartbreaking at times. It’s a great thing that you guys do,” he said.

Councilman Mike Belusko questioned if the shelter residents would be able to come and go freely, which Keith-Alexander said would not be the case, as residents would be required to enter the building for the night around 9:30 p.m.

“Once they’re in, they’re in for the night and we have that monitored so that we don’t have a flow of traffic in and out of the building late at night,” she said.

As for exiting in the morning, shelter residents would have to leave by 7 a.m. to ensure adequate time to get the space ready for the day’s services.

Wilkes-Barre resident Angel Mathis raised concerns about whether or not shelter residents would be required to attend religious activities in order to receive services, which Keith-Alexander said is not the case.

“Although Keystone Mission is a faith-based nonprofit, no one is required to attend any bible study or anything religious in order to receive services,” she said.

Wilkes-Barre resident Linda Joseph spoke before council to urge their favorable vote for the funding.

“I think we all know that there’s a very serious homeless situation in the city and that situation affects every one of us. As much as we can do to help turn those people around where they have jobs or they are at least off the streets when it’s cold or too hot, I think it’s absolutely the way we should go,” Joseph said.

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