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St. Stephen's helping those in need

Derek Wells

WILKES-BARRE — St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church held its 20th annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial this past week — Dec. 21 to be exact — but that’s not all Father Tim Alleman and his congregation do for downtown.

As a matter of fact, the 35 S. Franklin St. church currently operates as “part of a rotation for Mother Theresa’s Haven”, as Alleman puts it. Mother Theresa’s Haven is a homeless shelter for men that’s operated by the Catholic Social Service of the Diocese of Scranton. Various parishes, including St. Stephen’s, act as hosts for clients throughout the year. However, Alleman has something a bit more permanent in mind.

“They come and they spend some time with us, and we are actually striving, working, planning, in the hopes that perhaps, if we can make a few things line up, we may very well be able to offer up our space as a permanent shelter for the men, which the men in this city desperately need.”

And while nothing is set in stone yet, Alleman is hopeful that the homeless population in the area will be able to have a singular place where they can say, “This, this is the shelter.” And his deepest hopes, he said, “as the priest, the rector of this parish is that we would be that place.”

St. Stephen’s is also proud of its food and clothing outreach. The volunteer staff gives away the aforementioned necessities on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. However, Alleman notes, “Before COVID, we were giving away clothes one day a week and doing food five days a week. It’d be great to get back to that.”

Alleman, who has been the rector at St. Stephen’s since July 1, 2018, has been in Wilkes-Barre much longer than that. He began his time here as a hospital chaplain at Geisinger Wyoming Valley back in the summer of 2010. He held that position until May of 2018. He is also the rector at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in the city’s North End — 373 N. Main St. — and has been since New Year’s Day 2011. So, when Alleman speaks on bettering the community, he’s a man who knows what he’s talking about.

“We try as a parish and I try as a clergy in downtown to be very much prominent, out and about in the community. We want to be known. Not that ‘we’ are known, but rather the work we are doing.” And he says that working in conjunction with the Diamond City Partners has helped that work be known through shared events and the DCP, “making things known”.

On the subject of homelessness especially, Alleman is passionate. He says it’s easy for us to forget or to think that these things don’t happen in our own backyards.

“The thing that tends to happen, unless these things are held in front of our faces and made known to us, we tend to think that this level of suffering, this level of hardship, this is something that’s experienced in big cities. New York, Philadelphia, Washington, but it’s not in these small little cities like Wilkes-Barre, and it is! It very much is,” he said.

The answer, Alleman believes is in seeing these things firsthand and feeling the inspiration to get involved. “And if it’s not seen, that this is an issue, then you can’t get people to step forward and say, ‘Here I am, what can I do? What can I do to help?’”

If you or someone you know would like to get involved and volunteer to help out at St. Stephen’s, Alleman said you can, “simply call the parish office.” The number is 570-825-6653.

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