LEWISTON — Hope Haven Gospel Mission, the decades-old homeless shelter in the Little Canada neighborhood, may soon skip paychecks to its six paid staffers if donations fail to improve.

“We’re $20,000 shy of where we were last year at this time,” said the Rev. Paul McLaughlin, the shelter’s director.

The worry comes just as Hope Haven celebrates Independence Day, one of four holidays on which free meals are served to hundreds of people at the shelter and are delivered to shut-ins in nearby communities.

“We’re trying to meet all of our obligations,” McLaughlin said. The aim is to maintain services, despite shrinking donations.

The shelter houses up to 14 men and 16 women. The mission serves 17 meals each week. 

If he must, he plans to skip paychecks for staffers. McLaughlin said he would stagger them so no one would lose two weeks’ pay in a row. And McLaughlin himself would take a cut.

“We all have needs and home expenses,” he said.

Similar cuts were endured about five years ago.

“It would be tough, but I would manage,” said Marie Coffin, a secretary who has worked at the mission for more than 20 years.

The shelter has a $375,000 annual budget. Much of it comes from donations, which have fallen off dramatically in the weak economy. Expenses include utilities such as heating, electricity, insurance and payroll.

Some regular givers have decreased their contributions, saying they need the money to get by. Others have removed their names from mailing lists, McLaughlin said.

In the past few days, he has reached out to the community. In response, one woman dropped off a $1,000 check.

McLaughlin hopes more donors will come forward. If too few give, Coffin said she will be ready.

“My heavenly father takes care of me,” she said.

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