WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When temperatures drop, the doors will open.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown announced a new Code Blue program for the city. Effective Thursday night, a local church will convert to an emergency shelter, so the homeless can get out of the dangerous cold.
The city of Wilkes-Barre is working with Keystone Mission to administer the program. Justin Behrens who runs Keystone Mission says it’s not just for surviving the night, it’s for transforming lives.
“Our goal is to get the people off the streets, get them safe, get them in the building, get them warm. But it’s not just doing that it’s also transforming their lives,” Behrens said.
Behrens developed the Code Blue program with the city of Wilkes-Barre. If the city gets a foot of snow or temperatures hit 20 degrees or lower, the city will activate a Code Blue and turn Calvary Bible Church on South River Street into an emergency shelter for the homeless where they’ll have a warm place to stay for the night and a meal.
Keystone Mission administers the program. The city helps notify the homeless population, when they’ve initiated the Code Blue.
“The police department and the fire department of Wilkes-Barre are working hand-in-hand with us. During the night, they’re going to be driving around looking and if they see anyone that’s on the streets homeless in the cold weather when a Code Blue is initiated, they’re going to bring them to our building and we’ll get them a place to sleep,” Behrens said.
Behrens says there are well over 100 homeless people in the city who are at serious risk when the temperatures drop to dangerous levels. He says the program will save lives. Their ultimate goal is to help people achieve independence.
“We hear their stories and we want to know what their stories are about. And once we find out what those stories are, we connect them with agencies in the community to get them off the streets,” Behrens said.
During a Code Blue, the shelter will be open to guests beginning at 9 p.m. and will close at 7 a.m. the following morning. The public will also be notified of a Code Blue situation by the lighting of a blue light on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Right now, Keystone Mission is also working on a facility in Wilkes-Barre to help homeless men during the day. Those interested in volunteering with the Code Blue Program may contact Keystone Mission at (570) 871-4795 Ex. 406, or by sending an email to Volunteer@KeystoneMission.org.