Helping the Needy During Extreme Cold

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Courthouse Square in Scranton is typically a bustling place but on Thursday, the few people who were out weren't stopping to chat and were covered in layers from head to toe.

The busiest we'd see this place all day was when employees from the Wright Center for Community Health took a walk around the square hanging backpacks from trees.

They're calling them "Bags of Warmth." Each one has hats, gloves, scarves, and a snack inside free for anyone who needs them.

"There is a definite need," said the Wright Center's Gerri McAndrew. "I keep in touch with some of the deputies here in Scranton at the courthouse to see what's left on the trees, and they'll take a quick skip to the window and say there's nothing, so my coworker Jason McConnell will bring them down when he has a court hearing."

The group put out a few dozen bags last week and rushed to get more made in response to the cold snap.

This dangerously cold weather has come during a season that's already been challenging for the city of Scranton's only overnight homeless shelter.

St. Anthony's Haven on Olive Street has room for 26 people. In years past, another shelter opened up in the winter, but it hasn't been able to this year due to a lack of funding and volunteers.

"With the second shelter being not open this year, it really hurt, and we're trying to do the best we can, working along with all the other agencies in Lackawanna County," said Jerry Hallinan, the shelter's director.

Hallinan says he's worked with the day shelters in the city and some churches to extend hours so that the homeless can move seamlessly from shelter to shelter.

"Everyone's working a little bit harder to get everyone out of the cold."

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