WILKES-BARRE – Planning for the new, permanent home of Mother Teresa’s Haven, a shelter for homeless men operated by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, is now underway.

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, agency leaders toured the space above Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen at 39 E. Jackson Street, which will soon be transformed into space that will be available for 20-24 men experiencing homelessness.

Harry Lyons, program director for Mother Teresa’s Haven shelter, center, leads a tour of the second floor of the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen building in Wilkes-Barre. This space will soon be transformed into the new, permanent location for the emergency shelter serving men experiencing homelessness. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

“I couldn’t be more excited about being here, seeing the space and getting in,” Harry Lyons, program director for Mother Teresa’s Haven, said. “There is a lot of potential here.”

In late April, the Wilkes-Barre zoning hearing board unanimously approved an application for a special exception to establish the shelter above the Kitchen.

“We have a very supportive community,” Joe Mahoney, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, explained. “We met with the mayor. We met with the neighbors and met with King’s College. We have got all of this support but we need to make sure we keep talking to them.”

The second floor space that will be converted into the shelter was most recently occupied by a health clinic. The space, which is currently divided into several exam rooms, will need to be reconfigured to accommodate the needs of the shelter.

“We’re excited about opening up the walls so we can get some line of sight. We’re excited about having adequate bathroom space with showers. We don’t currently have showers or laundry facilities but both are a basic need, a dignity issue,” Lyons said.

For the last several years, Mother Teresa’s Haven has been utilizing space in the basement of Saint Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception at 134 S. Washington Street. Prior to that, the shelter had rotated between several churches in Wilkes-Barre.

Catholic Social Services leaders say having a permanent home for the shelter located directly above Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen will also lead to better coordination of services for our brothers and sisters in need.

“We will be a one-stop shop, hopefully making our clients lives just a little bit easier,” Mahoney said. “Having a permanent home is going to be a big relief to our staff and the people we serve.”

“Mike Cianciotta, who runs Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen, has been providing meals for us for several years. I work closely with Mike. The Kitchen is an amazing operation and we want people to be able to say that about us. We want that same feeling about what they do at the Kitchen to apply to us,” Lyons added.

The timeline needed for renovations is still being determined so there is no expected completion date. While hoping to get the work done quickly, Lyons says it can’t be rushed.

Your gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal each year help to support all of the work done by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton.

“This is something we’ve been waiting for a long, long time,” he said. “Ten years ago, on my very first day we started talking about it. This has been a goal forever.”

SCRANTON – Recent renovations to Saint Anthony’s Haven, Scranton’s only year-round emergency shelter for both men and women, will not only improve the comfort of guests but will allow the facility to continue serving people with disabilities.

The facility, at 409 Olive St., recently created a new handicap entrance/exit, renovated both the men’s and women’s restrooms and the common areas and installed new cabinets and flooring in the shelter’s kitchen area. In the next phase of the project, which will be partially supported by American Rescue Plan Act grant funding from Lackawanna County, the building’s roof will be replaced.

A $30,000 grant from the Robert H. Spitz Foundation supported recent renovations at Saint Anthony’s Haven, Scranton’s only year-round emergency shelter for both men and women. Pictured at the check presentation are, from left: Cathy Fitzpatrick, Grants & Scholarship Manager, Scranton Area Community Foundation; Frank Caputo, Grants & Communications Coordinator, Scranton Area Community Foundation; Sandra Snyder, Diocesan Director of Foundation Relations and Special Events; and Laura Ducceschi, President/CEO, Scranton Area Community Foundation, Administrator of Robert H. Spitz Foundation.

The most recent work was completed with the help of the city of Scranton, local charitable foundations, including The Moses Taylor Foundation and the Robert H. Spitz Foundation, and a national funder, The Pulte Family Charitable Foundation.

Harry Lyons, program supervisor of Saint Anthony’s Haven, said the new handicap entrance was a critical need after a sale of half the building that resulted in renovations by the new owner removed access to a previous point of entry.

“It was really important for us to establish this new handicap entrance so we can serve everybody. We have a number of people who use walkers and wheelchairs,” Lyons explained. “I recently got a call from the VA about a gentleman with no legs who uses a motorized wheelchair, so having this project finished will now ensure we have the ability to accommodate him.”

Saint Anthony’s Haven can safely accommodate 20 men and six women each night.

In addition to overnight shelter, the facility provides two meals per day, shower and laundry facilities and supportive services.

The number of individuals experiencing homelessness who rely on Saint Anthony’s Haven has returned to levels previously experienced before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Saint Anthony’s Haven provided 4,371 individual nights of shelter to clients. In 2021, the number rose to 5,658, and in 2022 6,410 individual nights of shelter were provided.

“The Robert H. Spitz Foundation is focused on supporting programs that aim to break the cycle of poverty,” said Laura Ducceschi, president of the Scranton Area Community Foundation, which administers the Robert H. Spitz Foundation. “Supporting the renovation work at Saint Anthony’s Haven will help to better serve those populations in need of the facility’s services, and the Robert H. Spitz Foundation is proud to be able to help the community in this way.”

Robert H. Spitz Foundation funding also was used to replace the Olive Street entrance roof and help remove nine deteriorated and dangerous balconies from Saint James Manor, the building that houses Saint Anthony’s Haven.

The mission of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, which operates Saint Anthony’s Haven, is to serve individuals and families in poverty and advocate for dignity and self-sufficiency.

“We don’t want anyone left out in the street or left out in the cold,” Lyons added.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the grant funding we have received for this project,” Lyons stated. “Without the support of the community we would not be able to continue serving our brothers and sisters in the way that we do.”