STROUD TWP., Pa. — Most homeless shelters in the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions are at or beyond capacity. It’s causing concern as winter approaches, but starting Monday and every night through March, people experiencing homelessness can go to a newly renovated space at the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church in Stroud Township, Monroe County.

“To offer them not only a warm place to sleep, but a lot of hope,” said Lynda Keefer, co-lead pastor at the church, “a way to reconnect to resources in our county.”

Those resources include permanent housing and job opportunities.

It’s the ninth season the church is offering its cold-weather shelter, but before, people were sleeping on mattresses in a gym.

“We’ve been able to provide them with beds and mattresses and hot showers and laundry,” Keefer said.

The space is called the Wesleyan Inn. The name was chosen in an effort to change the narrative about homelessness.

 “Anybody whose experiencing homelessness, that’s not who they are. That’s just the situation that they’re in,” said Keefer. “They are going to be treated with dignity.”

There are 35 beds for men, women and couples in the main area, plus room upstairs in the sanctuary when that space is filled. We’re told the inn almost always meets capacity.

“There’s a lot more people coming in,” said Minister Teresa Mankin, a leader at the Wesleyan Inn.

The federal eviction moratorium ended months ago. Plus, people who struggled to pay rent during the pandemic didn’t have their leases renewed before that.

Many hope the new space will help meet the increased need, and inspire more stories like this one: “They were just so grateful to have a place to lay their head and know that they could go to different resources in the area and come here every night, and their life turned around,” Mankin said about one of the people who used to stay at the inn.

The inn is open from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.