FARMINGTON — As the Rev. Steve Bracy spoke about the Western Maine Homeless Outreach recently, the phone in his office rang.
It was a caseworker, looking for help.
Another parent and child would probably spend the night in their car, he said, sighing as he hung up the phone. A list of people who have already called for help sat on his desk.
The shelter hasn’t even opened yet.
Since announcing the intention to open Franklin County’s first homeless shelter within Bracy’s church, Living Waters Assembly of God on Wilton Road, the calls keep coming, he said.
Volunteers have diligently worked to prepare the space and organize the effort for a Nov. 1 opening, he said. The shelter may open even sooner, he said.
The carpentry and plumbing work is done. They are waiting on an electrician, and 20-plus volunteers still need to be trained to staff the shelter, he added. About 30 mattresses, including some for children, have yet to be bought, and beds will need to be assembled.
Although housed in the church, there’s a large group of community volunteers making this happen, explained Rachel Jackson Hodsdon, president of the executive board.
From her position as manager of 82 High Street, a low-income housing park in Farmington, she sees the need — especially for people with children.
“How can a child learn if they are sleeping in a car or don’t know where they are going to sleep tonight?” she said of the effort to provide space, especially for families and children.
Breakfast and supper will be provided to people staying in the shelter, she said.
Since Franklin County does not have a homeless shelter, the state and federal governments don’t recognize the need and consider the county to have no homeless people, she said.
“It’s a Catch-22,” she said. “There’s no shelter here, so there’s no money allotted for one.”
Area pastors and community members are working together with help from Betty Palmer, executive director of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, and they are making a start.
The group began meeting this summer and has obtained nonprofit status, created bylaws for the organization, elected a board of directors, worked on space at the host church and started fundraising.
So far, the work needed to change Sunday school rooms in to three large rooms to provide temporary housing for families has been paid for, Bracy said.
“Funds come in, little by little,” he added of donations received.
A grant from the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area will help buy bunk beds.
While the group recognizes the needs of homeless single men and women, they want to focus on helping children stay in their local school district.
The single adults could more easily go to the Waterville shelter, Jackson Hodsdon said.
The work in the church includes creating new rooms on the main floor for church and community use by organizations like Weight Watchers, Bracy said. These replace those used by the shelter.