HAZLETON, PA (APRIL 25, 2019) – Bishop Joseph C. Bambera held a blessing ceremony today at the Catholic Social Services complex, 214 West Walnut Street, Hazleton, to celebrate the opening of the permanent Divine Providence Homeless Shelter and the new Bridge to Independence Program. Both are programs of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton.
Joined by the Governing Board of Catholic Social Services and other local dignitaries, Bishop Bambera acknowledged how this important project will directly impact the lives of people in southern Luzerne County.
“The Catholic Social Services complex in Hazleton serves a vital role in providing much-needed stability to individuals needing housing assistance,” Bishop Bambera said. “One of the core missions of the Diocese of Scranton and of Catholic Social Services is to serve people in poverty and hardship, as called by Christ, and respond compassionately to their needs.”
The new, permanent Divine Providence Homeless Shelter can host up to 20 clients each night. The shelter opens at 7 p.m. and is available to both men and women. The homeless shelter program in Hazleton first started in February 2016, initially rotating its home, from week to week, among area churches. Since its inception three years ago, the shelter has already helped more than 500 people.
The Bridge to Independence Program is a young adult residential program which serves people from ages 18 to 26. The new facility includes eight private bedrooms, a community room, as well as a common kitchen, dining room, laundry facility and office with computers. The goal of the Bridge to Independence Program, as its name implies, is to help develop and enhance life skills that will enable program participants to live independently and attain self-sufficiency.
“When I assumed responsibility for Catholic Social Services in January 2016, I quickly developed a healthy respect for the culture of Hazleton. The individuals living in this town truly understand the meaning of ‘taking care of each other.’ As a result, I wanted to find a way to infuse resources which would allow Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton to expand its ability to serve those in need,” said Mary Theresa Malandro, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services. “With the support of Bishop Bambera, Monsignor Thomas Muldowney, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health and Developmental Services, and several other community contributors, my vision has come to fruition!”
Catholic Social Services partnered with Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health and Developmental Services to create the Bridge to Independence Program. Funding, which totaled $1 million, helped renovate the former CSS building and annual support is being provided toward the operation of the program.
A grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, in the amount of $525,000, helped fund renovations to the part of the building that includes the Divine Providence Shelter and to the adjacent Family Center which houses Saint Joseph’s Food Pantry. The entire renovation project also received financial support from several other charitable foundations and community organizations.
In addition to renovations at the West Walnut Street facility, which was the original home of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and rectory, the complex also houses the Catholic Social Services Family Center in the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. The Catholic Social Services offices are also now located directly across the street in the original convent. Thus, the entire original Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish grounds now serve as a complete centralized campus for Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, serving the Greater Hazleton Area.
“The support of the community at large to make this become a reality has been both humbling and inspiring,” said Neil Oberto, program manager of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton’s Counseling Services, serving the Greater Hazleton Area. “It is especially exciting to know that the buildings which served as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish – and the church itself since 1907 – are now refurbished to continue service. There is no doubt ‘divine providence’ has been guiding this whole process.”