WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — As many of us spend time inside this time of year, others are braving the cold without shelter.

It’s a harsh and potentially deadly reality homeless individuals face in our region. Dozens clutched candles as names were read aloud Tuesday night outside St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre. The solemn vigil is part of an annual memorial service that honors the lives of homeless people who have passed away in the community.

“We need to pray with our hands as well as our voices. And after we pray, get involved in providing for and caring for these ones who are so much in need,” Father Tim Alleman of St. Stephen’s Church said.

It’s the 20th year the church has partnered with Volunteers of America Pennsylvania to host the service on the winter solstice.

“When I think about this time of year and this longest night, I can’t imagine what it must feel like when the sun is your light, and when it goes down so early and then you’re just stuck,” Volunteers of America Pennsylvania NEPA director Crystal Kotlowski said.

Kotlowski oversees Ruth’s Place Women’s Shelter in the Diamond City. She says shelters open around the clock are essential for the homeless during the winter.

“When you live in northeastern Pennsylvania and the daytime temperatures are below freezing on a regular basis, having that safe space at all times is so important,” Kotlowski said.

While the tradition continues to shine a light on homelessness, organizers say it wouldn’t be possible without the community’s involvement.

“I wish we could be doing more to end this crisis, but I’m glad to be here to support such wonderful people who are working every day to help,” Kelly Gibbons of Dallas said.

If you or someone you know are in need of emergency shelter, resources are available in Luzerne County. Below is a list of places and phone numbers that can help:

  • Mother Theresa`s Haven 570-825-9948
  • Ruth`s Place 570-822-6817
  • Domestic Violence Service Center 570-823-7312
  • Divine Providence 570-599-4337