Our Opinion: Do homeless men in the Wyoming Valley require permanent shelter?

Would it be a good idea to …

… establish a permanent shelter in Wilkes-Barre for homeless men?

For decades, advocates of Luzerne County’s homeless have patched together a network of temporary sites – primarily churches – at which volunteers agree to house and feed the men nightly for perhaps a week or so at a time. Then, it’s on to the next site.

The setup may be good for the souls of those performing the community service, but it’s less than ideal for connecting men to the social services they need to get off the streets.

By contrast, Ruth’s Place, a program of Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania, supplies a single destination in the city for homeless women. During short-term stays, women benefit from both a roof overhead and a fixed address from which to apply for services and jobs and to receive other support. The program has been in existence for more than a decade.

Previously, women desperate for emergency shelter in the Wyoming Valley had few good choices: falsely claim they had been abused, to gain admittance to a domestic violence shelter, or shack up with someone they had only just met. (A limited number of slots also were available at places such as the Salvation Army’s Kirby Family House, in Wilkes-Barre, and the Catherine McAuley House, Plymouth.)

The Rev. Keith Benjamin and Julie Benjamin, a husband-wife duo transplanted to the Wyoming Valley, recognized the women’s plight and, through the Methodist Urban Ministries, started what became Ruth’s Place.

Back then, as now, men routinely were shuttled from place to place.

Monsignor Joseph P. Kelly, executive director of the Diocese of Scranton’s Catholic Social Services, has long championed the idea of putting a permanent men’s shelter in or near the city’s hub. Kelly, nearing age 75, is set to retire later this year.

Interestingly, officials in Connecticut last week announced they had ended chronic homelessness among veterans and, by the end of 2016, intend to provide housing for all homeless people in the state, according to a Hartford Courant report.

Do civic leaders in the Wyoming Valley have a plan for eliminating homelessness? Should they? Or is the existing system satisfactory?

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Likewise, tell us your ideas for improving the community and making area residents’ lives better. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”