Helping homeless families stay warm and stay together

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — For homeless families, winter is anything but magical as nearly 2,000 seek shelter in our state alone.

Efforts are underway at shelters in our area to help families stay warm and stay together.

“It’s a blessing. It really is,” Kirby Family House resident Alyssa Lindsey said.

Lindsey is a mother of three, including two-month-old Ethan. When faced with homelessness last summer, they turned to the Salvation Army’s Kirby Health Center Family House in Wilkes-Barre.

“We needed a place like this. And at the time, they were full, and we were living in a motel, and we couldn’t afford the motel, so our kids went into foster care but, being here, you could get your kids back, we’re close to getting them back now, since we have stable housing, because this is considered stable housing,” Lindsey said.

The purpose of this transitional-living program is to keep homeless families together and help them get back on their feet. It’s the only one of its kind in Luzerne County.

“Essentially, they don’t have the idea of what to do next. And so our job is to say, hey, calm down, we’re here to help, let’s roll out a plan for you, how can we help, where do you want to be and how can we get you there,” Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel core officer Lieutenant Ismael Ortiz said.

Lieutenant Ortiz says they’re currently at full-capacity. As more families become homeless in our area, the faith-based organization Keystone Mission is experiencing a similar response.

“We’re seeing a lot more increase of children and families reaching out for help, and reaching out for services,” Keystone Mission executive director and CEO Justin Behrens said.

Another concern is for area homeless youth who don’t have families.

“There’s about 57, right now, children in Luzerne and Lackawanna County that have no mother or father, no guardian to live, and we need to reach out to them also,” Behrens said.

Lindsey says she’s thankful for the help of the community.

“We’re just making our family better at this point,” Lindsey said.

There’s currently a wait list for families in need at the Kirby Health Center Family House and they’re always in need of donations like winter coats to help their residents. To find out how you can help, and access resources for those facing homelessness, visit

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