Homelessness exists in many guises in Wayne County, and some dedicated volunteers are trying to do something about it.  


Homelessness does exist in Wayne County.


It’s more than the person living out on the street. It’s also the person moving house to house, relying on family and friends to keep a roof over their head, says May Rutherford, Chairperson of the Social Concerns Committee at St. John’s the Evangelist Church in Honesdale. If someone suffers a stroke, heart attack or serious injury and is unable to work, finances can, “go to the point where they’re in jeopardy of being evicted — that falls into our homeless picture,” says Sharon Matesi, St. John’s Volunteer Social Advocate.


Homelessness can happen easier than you think, Rutherford says. A serious illness, a lost job, no money for a car — and you’re stuck, she said. Plenty of people are one paycheck away from disaster if someone gets sick, she said.


Poor are poorer in Wayne County


“The rich are richer and the poor are poorer in Wayne County,” says Monsignor Joseph Kelly, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services.


“The median income in Wayne County is higher than the median income in Luzerne County. However, what we’re finding is the people on the lower end have less income than those on the lower end of Lackawanna and Luzerne,” he said. “The income level of so many of the people is so much lower than other areas of Northeast, Pennsylvania,” he said.
Monsignor Kelly says there is, “a great number of people who are really struggling to maintain their homes, their apartments.” They’re struggling to the make the rent, he said. Utility bills are another problem.


Catholic Social Services (CSS), a non-profit organization that, “cares for those less fortunate with the necessities of life—food, shelter and clothing,” opened an office in Wayne County in April, 2007 at St. John the Evangelist in Honesdale. “Most of the people we’re seeing are working part-time with no health benefits,” says Monsignor Kelly. He says they’re working part-time at minimum wage- $7.15 an hour.

“The working poor are really struggling. The cost of everything has increased so greatly and salaries are not keeping pace with that.”


The problem is broader than Wayne County. “This is a national issue. How do we raise the income for folks who have not completed a lot of education — maybe just a high school diploma? To raise the minimum wage is not the simple answer,” Monsignor Kelly said.


He says they see about 30 people a week at CSS. Every week, it’s new people needing help, he said, with rent assistance, heat, food, and transportation money. Monsignor Kelly said they’re working very closely with Tre-hab, the Salvation Army, and Honesdale Ministerium. Asked if they’re able to keep up with the need, the Monsignor answered, “No, I doubt it very much. I think we are going to find utility costs this year are going to push everybody over the edge.”


“Housing stock is terrible”


“The housing stock in Wayne County is terrible. There’s no place for people to rent,” Monsignor Kelly said. “There’s not safe, affordable housing available for low-income families.” He said there’s very little available that’s not high end. “There has to be more public housing available.” With a, “county that has grown as prosperously as we (Wayne County) have,” the Monsignor wonders. “why we’re not providing more subsidized housing?”


He said CSS provides over 300 affordable apartments across Northeast, Pennsylvania.