WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — With these dangerously cold temperatures, efforts are underway to help people who need them now more than ever.
A blue light shines on Wilkes-Barre Public Square. It’s a warning sign of sorts for those experiencing homelessness but it’s also a beacon of hope.
“We’re still continuing to try to do outreach to make sure that the homeless know that there is a place for them to come to stay warm and get out of the cold during the night,” explained Justin Behrens, Executive Director & CEO, Keystone Mission.
The city’s newly-announced “Code Blue” program offers this service in the bitter cold or deep snow. Wilkes-Barre and the non-profit keystone mission provide the emergency shelter at calvary bible church on South River Street.
“When they get there, they’re given stuff like a hygiene kit to help them get cleaned up from being on the streets, they’re given a cot, blanket, pillows, and they go in for the night to sleep,” stated Behrens.
People can escape the cold here from 9:00 at night to 7:00 the next morning.
“By doing facilities like this, it allows the opportunity that we’re not gonna have those high-risk cases in the emergency room and possible death that it could result to,” said Behrens.
The shelter is staffed by Keystone Mission workers and volunteers, including some State Troopers.
This initiative isn’t just about emergency housing.
“We also look at this as an opportunity to actually connect those that are hurting and find out what is that barrier that they need, or what is missing in today’s world that we could help to beat and make sure they get a better chance in life,” explained Behrens.
Behrens is on a mission to get people off the streets in the diamond city for good.
“We are continuing to fight so that we can make sure that we have a permanent place for the homeless to go to so that we don’t have to worry about a code blue shelter in the future,” stated Behrens.
Police and first responders here in Wilkes-Barre are also part of this initiative. When a code blue is activated, they help get homeless people to safety here at the shelter