NORWAY — Local churches, towns and aid organizations are working to open up communications with one another to better provide aid to the poor and homeless.
Anne Stanley, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Norway, said one goal is to create a list or even a book for organizations in the Oxford Hills region to reference when directing the needy to people who can help them.
“It'll probably be a pretty big book,” Stanley said. The document will include names or organizations and some of the people who work there, along with phone numbers and what each group can and can't do.”
“There's a great interest in just coordinating our efforts,” Stanley said. She said she expected more organizations to attend the next meeting in January. “If we can make what we do be done more efficiently, I think we'll all be ahead.”
Paris Town Manager Phil Tarr said the group will focus on homelessness first. Paris, through the General Assistance fund, sometimes pays for homeless people to stay in a local motel for a night, he said. It often happens in the winter when people run out of friends and family to stay with.
There are two shelters in the area. The Norway Family Center is for women and children and has room for up to 12 people. The other, the South Paris Men's Shelter, is an apartment for two men, according to a description from Rumford Group Homes, which runs both shelters.
With the high jobless rate and unemployment benefits ending for many, need in the area has increased. Tarr said both he and Norway Town Manager David Holt expect substantial increases in their towns' General Assistance budgets.
Tarr said that so many of the town's aid recipients are having trouble meeting rent that there has been talk of moving more people into motel rooms, if they can negotiate lower rates, to stay a week at a time. “That gives people a chance to settle down,” and decide their next step in life.
“We're trying to be innovative and still stay within the guidelines of the ordinance,” Tarr said. He said that an individual who meets requirements for income and other guidelines is eligible for $485 a month from the town.
Stanley said the plan is more about coordinating efforts than collecting and giving out money. Ideally, groups would continue to meet to share information and give updates on their progress.
Local churches who help the poor already share information on those they help so people aren't going from church to church collecting money.
On Wednesday, Stanley met with Holt and Tarr, along with representatives from the First Congregational Church, Avesta Housing, SAD 17, Stephens Memorial Hospital and the Kiwanis Club.
The groups will meet again at Christ Episcopal Church in Norway on Jan. 13.