WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – So many non-profit organizations struggle to help those in the community who need help the most. That struggle is being made easier for several such local programs thanks to a federal program doling out tens of thousands of dollars. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller shows us how thousands of people will benefit.

Empty beds are a rare sight at Ruth’s Place in Wilkes-Barre which is a homeless shelter for women. Its Program Coordinator, Crystal Williams, said “We have 21 beds in our facility. We serve roughly 300 women a year to obtain safe and suitable housing.”

Providing temporary care and case management at the non-profit doesn’t come cheap. “The women have a wide range of needs that, you know, often require monetary assistance,” said Ms. Williams. 

Now it’s getting a nearly $23,000 boost thanks to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program – a national funding source benefitting Ruth’s Place and seven other Luzerne County programs. EFSP Local Board Chair Jennifer Deemer said, “This funding is so critical to the programs that it serves. It is a significant portion of each and every one of their budgets.”

This year, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program Local Board received nearly $183,000 in EFSP grants to help non-profits serving at-risk individuals and families. St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen Program Director Mike Cianciotta said, “It’s very important because it helps us to maintain the building. It helps us to feed the people.”

St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre, which provides meals for 300 guests daily, is receiving nearly $20,000. “When we use that money for the food then the extra donations that we get helps to take care of everything else,” said Mr. Cianciotta.

The funding provides more than just food and shelter. Some of the money goes toward eviction prevention programs. By helping others find the resources they need so they are not hungry or spending a night on the streets, the EFSP funding helps fulfill a critical community goal. “Stabilize families and hopefully show them how they can become more stable going forward,” said Ms. Deemer.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was created in 1983 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. All total, Luzerne County Local Board Awarded $182,811 in EFSP funds to the following grantees:

1. Catholic Social Services in Hazleton

2. Commission on Economic Opportunity in Hazleton

3. Catholic Social Services in Wyoming Valley

4. Commission on Economic Opportunity in Wyoming Valley

5. Volunteers of America’s Ruth’s Place

6. United Way of Wyoming Valley

7. The Salvation Army

8. Jewish Community Alliance