WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — UPDATE:
After hearing testimony, the Wilkes-Barre Zoning Board voted and approved the zoning ordinance to allow for transitional housing at the former Thomas C Thomas building.
Currently, there is nowhere for people to go in the city of Wilkes-Barre if they experience homelessness because of a tragedy like a house fire, but Keystone Mission is hoping to change that.
"We neglect, in today's world, helping each other out," said Keystone Mission CEO and Executive Director Justin Behrens. "We're a society that we need to build relationships, move people in the right direction, get them moving in the right direction, and not just keep beating them down."
"Right now, when a family is homeless, or the family doesn't have a place to go, what they're going to do is they're going to usually end up going into the county, and the county is going to have to get him into a hotel room, emergency housing, whatever it is," added Behrens.
Behrens hopes to make the former Thomas C. Thomas building on East Union Street a haven for families in need.
Keystone Mission wants to lease the building and build offices and apartments inside.
"An apartment complex of two-bedroom apartments," explained Behrens. "The first two floors act as like they come in for free. We get them back on track. We get them moving in the right direction, build that foundation. We start getting them back jobs so they can start paying rent. And then they moved up to the second two floors, where then they started learning that process that bubble effect."
For other resources families in transition might need, Behrens says the location is perfect.
"Children & Youth is right down the road. CareerLink is right down the road. Volunteers of America, right down the road. The mental health providers are right down the road. The drug and alcohol providers are right down the road. So everyone in the community is all right around there. We're bringing them together into one bubble to help us move. We're just the brokers," added Behrens.
Zoning officials in Wilkes-Barre voted late Wednesday afternoon to approve transitional housing at the former Thomas C Thomas building. There was no opposition to the plan at the hearing. Now they will begin drawing up construction plans for the project.
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