Digital Exclusive: A non-profit looks to build a transformation center for the homeless in Scranton

Digital Exclusive

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — After 15 years of searching, Keystone Mission might have finally found the place for their long-awaited transformation center for the homeless.

“We really want to take people for the long term in and change their life for the better,” Justin Behrens, Executive Director of Keystone Mission, said.

The non-profit hopes to turn 215 Hickory Street in Scranton into both a homeless shelter, with 50 beds, and a long-term facility, with 40 beds, to help get those without a home back on track.

“That’s your budgeting, that’s how do I wash my clothes, that’s how do I take care of myself. And start building relationships in the community that they might not have ever had, that they’ve lost,” Behrens said.

The goal is also to get those who enter the center back to working again and eventually out on their own for good.

“They can stay in our location while they’re working, start learning how to save their money, start learning how to budget, and move them on to sustainability for the rest of their life,” Behrens said.

A zoning board meeting will be held on Wednesday to decide on the approval of the non-profit’s request. Behrens says there has been an increase of people entering shelters during the pandemic, as well as an increase in homelessness. Because the state eviction moratorium, allowing landlords to be able to evict tenants, expired on August 31st, he expects those numbers to rise.

“If we’re reactive to this we’re not going to be able to catch up. But being proactive, by getting a building like this, we’ll be able to handle that influx that will come in from COVID,” Behrens said.

“With the rise of homelessness, we need a place where they can come together to grow and be discipled but also equipped to step back into society,” Ryan Buchanan, Director of Development at Keystone Mission, said.

Behrens says they’re already looking at blueprints for the building so that they can get started as soon as possible if approved by the zoning board.

“We need to get this out there as fast as we can and we want to start transforming their lives. We’ve already built the relationship with the homeless, now we just need to start transforming their lives, Behrens said.

The zoning board will be held on September 2nd, at 5 p.m.

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