SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — For teens in Lackawanna County who don’t have a warm home to go to, there is a safe place for them to spend time with friends and out of the frigid cold.

A game of pool after school. That’s what dozens of teenagers did Tuesday night at the NEPA Youth Shelter in Scranton.

“After school, there’s not a whole lot for them to do if they’re not involved in sports, they’re not involved in clubs. So, they’re looking for something to do and this is a great place to be,” shelter founder and executive director Maureen Maher-Gray said.

There’s plenty of fun things to do in the shelter’s after-school drop-in center. It’s where teens in need can have fun with their friends in a safe environment with access to basic necessities at no cost.

“When they leave here, most of them have a home to go to and that’s always a good thing, but some homes don’t have heat and some homes don’t have electricity and some homes don’t have food,” Maher-Gray said.

Last month, the shelter averaged more than 40 teens per day. Scranton High senior Jay Herb has been coming here since 2019 and he says it changed the course of his life.

“I recently got the wonderful opportunity to work and act for the Scranton Fringe Festival, and if it wasn’t for finding out through a flyer through here, I wouldn’t have been able to do that and it’s truly an amazing blessing,” Herb said.

Rodrick McNabb discovered his passion while spending time at the center in high school. He now comes back to spend time with the teens and help them discover their own.

“If it wasn’t for the center or me finding this place, I wouldn’t have figured out what I wanted to do in music or in life, period. So, coming to the center, it basically changed my life for real,” McNabb said.

The NEPA Youth Shelter serves as an emergency shelter for homeless teens and it’s all made possible through donations and the work of volunteers.