WILKES-BARRE – Mother Teresa’s Haven, a shelter for homeless men operated by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, will soon have a new, permanent home.
In late April, the Wilkes-Barre zoning hearing board unanimously approved an application for a special exception to establish a homeless shelter above Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen at 39 E. Jackson Street.
“The shelter has been nomadic since its inception in the 1980s. When Catholic Social Services took over more than a decade ago, we started talking about a permanent location,” Harry Lyons, program director for Mother Teresa’s Haven, said. “You need a permanent location so you have the ability to offer these men showers and somewhere they can send their mail.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mother Teresa’s Haven had been located 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.
“We’re grateful to the churches that have supported us all these years but it is time for us to take the next step and provide better services to the men,” Lyons added. “Saint Mary’s was not meant to be a long-term solution. It is a beautiful space and we’re absolutely grateful for it but it was never meant to be a long-term solution.”
In 2022, Mother Teresa’s Haven provided 5,838 individual nights of shelter to men in the community who are experiencing homelessness. That is the highest number of clients served in more than six years.
When the emergency shelter moves into its new location, it will be able to house 20 to 24 men each night. It would be open 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily and would be fully staffed. Security will be provided. Men are able to stay at the shelter a maximum of 30 days and can be granted a 15-day extension if they are taking steps to improve their condition.
“We’re optimistic about the future. The better services we can provide, hopefully the quicker somebody can get through a bout of homelessness. That is the ultimate goal, to get people to self-sufficiency, getting them into a place that is safe, stable and affordable,” Lyons explained.
The new, permanent location will allow Catholic Social Services to offer beds to clients instead of cots and will be beneficial for integrating services in one location.
“It makes sense to have the shelter and Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen right next to each other so people don’t have to wander around downtown as much,” Joe Mahoney, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said during the Wilkes-Barre zoning board meeting. “The more we can provide services in that one location, the better off we’re going to be, the better off our clients are going to be, and the better off the community is going to be.”
Renovation work is expected to begin on the new, permanent location for Mother Teresa’s Haven by late summer or early fall. An expected completion date is not yet known but Catholic Social Services does not anticipate any interruption of services for the men they serve during the transition process.