WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The bitter cold expected this weekend is raising concerns about people experiencing homelessness.

Their life expectancy is two decades less than the general population according to the National Institutes of Health.

A somber service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church brought attention Wednesday to a deadly serious problem: People who’ve lost their lives trying to survive their homelessness.

“A lot of those names are people that I’ve worked with personally in my line of work and, you know, it did. It is a sad reality that we have to face as homeless service providers,” said Crystal Kotlowski, NEPA Director of Volunteers of America PA.

Crystal Kozlowski’s work with volunteers of America Pennsylvania aims to prevent the potential tragedy of homelessness.

“People suffer, you know, especially out in the cold and the elements,” stated Kotlowski.

Volunteers of America Pennsylvania operates Ruth’s Place, the only emergency shelter in Luzerne County dedicated to just women.

On any given night, 16 women will seek temporary shelter at Ruth’s Place but sometimes that need is even greater than that number. One of these beds is occupied by Annaliesa who has admittedly struggled ever since aging out of foster care.

“I was sleeping in my girlfriend’s car. It was bad,” recalled Annaliessa D, a Ruth’s Place resident.

She found more than emergency shelter at Ruth’s Place.

“They’ve been helping me out immensely. I’ve got a lot done in a week and a half. I’m looking at going into an apartment in Pittston,” described Annaliessa D.

Donna has been staying at Ruth’s Place since late September when she says she lost her job and apartment, but she hasn’t lost her dignity.

“There’s a lot of reasons why people become homeless, and it shouldn’t be a stigma but it is,” said Donna G, a resident of Ruth’s Place.

Like Annaliesa, Donna hopes to get an apartment soon and follow in the path of some others.

“We just had two women that left today. They moved into their own housing,” stated Vanessa Johnson, Resident Assistant of Ruth’s Place.

“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be. I would maybe not even be alive,” said Donna G.

Wednesday’s service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was held as part of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.

If someone is in need of emergency shelter, resources are available at voapa.org.