SCRANTON, Pa. — Scranton’s Zoning Board will soon consider adding a homeless shelter downtown.
Keystone Mission has run a daytime homeless shelter along West Olive Street in Scranton for 12 years. Their mission to expand into an overnight shelter has been a long one.
“We finally, 12 years later, decided that this is the time that we’re going to take that next level and get that homeless shelter that we really wanted to start,” said Keystone Mission’s Executive Director and CEO, Justin Behrens.
Behrens said the organization plans to buy a building on the 500-block of Wyoming Avenue in the city, formerly owned by Diamond Glass.
The Scranton Zoning Board needs to approve the construction of a 50-bed homeless shelter there. The project would triple the number of shelter beds in the city.
Keystone’s current day shelter has caused controversy in the past. In the spring, Keystone voluntarily shut down for three weeks amid complaints from neighbors.
Behrens tells Newswatch 16 the mission would still operate along West Olive Street but, in a different way.
“I understand the concerns of the neighborhood, they’re valid, and I understand. What we’re going to do here is we’re going to turn this more into now the distribution center,” he said.
So far, the potential new location on the 500-block of Wyoming Avenue has not received the push back that Keystone Mission has become accustomed to.
In fact, the next-door neighbor, The Barber School of NEPA, sees the new homeless shelter as an opportunity.
“We’ve got St. Francis of Assisi right over here, you got the vets around the corner, the homeless vets we take care of. To us, we need practice, and we have people that we can practice on,” said owner Michael Caporali
Caporali said he’s surrounded by several social service agencies on this block, and he would welcome another.
“They’re homeless, it’s all around us, what are we supposed to do? Kick them out? I’m no better than they are, you’re no better than they are, let’s feed them, let’s help them,” Caporali added.
Scranton’s Zoning Board is set to decide on the proposed homeless shelter after a hearing on Wednesday night.