WILKES-BARRE – Vince Kabacinski has been working on behalf of homeless people for 29 years.
The former director of VISION – now Mother Teresa's Haven – Kabacinski, 63, said despite severe cutbacks in funding, opportunities remain for the homeless.
But this is as bad as I've seen it, he said. There are more homeless, but I'm proud that there are more opportunities available. We're continuing to provide help, but these are very, very difficult times.
Kabacinski and the late Ann Marie McCawley started the Homeless Coalition nearly 30 years ago. He said Catholic Social Services, which runs Mother Teresa's Haven, the Commission on Economic Opportunity and Help Line are good places for people to start when in need.
The services are there for them, he said.
In his travels, Kabacinski said he finds people who are victims of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS patients, veterans, people dealing with substance abuse, mentally ill, and young people – under 18 – who he calls unaccompanied youth.
Kabacinski said the people in the structured programs are doing the right thing – the best thing to get their lives back on track.
They're getting help and they are trying to pull themselves back up to regain their place in society, he said.
He said the chronically homeless – the people living on the streets – are acutely aware of services available, but they won't enroll in programs because they won't play by the rules.
Anyone on the streets is there by choice, he said. They might have a drinking problem or a substance abuse problem. We offer to get them into detox, but they won't agree.
If they would accept that offer, Kabacinski said when they are released from detox they would enter the program and begin to discuss goals and set up a plan.
Most won't do it, he said. They have bottomed-out, or they're just not that in control of their lives.
According to Kabacinski, between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012, there were:
• 261 single women with children in emergency shelters
• 114 single women with children in transitional housing facilities
• 566 individuals in emergency shelters – such as Mother Teresa's Haven and Ruth's Place
• 75 individuals in transitional housing
Kabacinski said the total comes to 1,016 and these are all separate cases – no repeats.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Kabacinski did a one night count that found:
• 4 families that totaled 16 individuals in emergency shelters
• 18 families/68 individuals in transitional housing
• 45 individuals in emergency shelters
• 44 in transitional housing that night
• 5 unsheltered individuals unsheltered (all that he could find)
That's 178 homeless people being helped on the one night count.
Catholic Social Services
33 East Northampton Street, Wilkes-Barre; Phone: 822-7118, Fax: 829-7781
Commission on Economic Opportunity
165 Amber Lane, Wilkes-Barre
Toll Free Number: 1-800-822-0359; Fax Number: 829-1665; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
31 West Market Street, Wilkes-Barre
Phone: 829-1341 or (888) 829-1341