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.”