Editor’s Note: The family name has been changed to protect the privacy of the children. 

FARMINGTON — Molly Williams and her family jumped at an opportunity to move from the west coast to Maine in January 2017. Williams, her significant other and their children were making the move to care for a family friend on a live-in basis. Unfortunately, the plan did not work out as they envisioned.

Their living situation started deteriorating and Williams began worrying about her family’s security.

“My work experience was from out of state,” said Williams. “I decided I needed to create a local character reference for myself so local employers could verify my work ethic.”

She began volunteering. She cleaned a local church and spent time at the animal shelter. Then she signed up with United Way of the Tri-Valley Area to volunteer at Western Maine Homeless Shelter.

“I told them I needed volunteer hours,” Williams added. “That was partially true. In reality, I wanted to see first hand what the shelter was all about. In my head, I knew this was my next move. I needed to check it out before bringing my kids into that environment.”

While Williams volunteered, she studied the shelter handbook and learned what was and was not allowed, and what rules had to be followed by shelter guests.

“I wanted so badly to get to a place that was secure and steady,” she added. “My children were my main concern; always the first priority.”

Since Williams and the children’s father were not married at the time, she feared the shelter would turn them away. Still, she dug up the courage and asked if they would be accepted as guests.

”We weren’t turned away,” she said. “We signed papers and began the move-in process. That was a really tough week of highs and lows for me.”

The family moved into the shelter in May 2017. Williams and the children in one room; the children’s father in another. The family represents just four of the more than 100 individuals the shelter assisted in 2017.

“All we had was our important paperwork and the clothing we brought,” she explained. “Everything for all four of us in one big duffel bag.”

Everyone was given hygiene bags filled with toiletries and necessities. They were assigned a mailbox, a locker and bathroom storage bin. The children were given special blankets of their own to keep.

“Just to see something with my name on it was emotional,” she added. “Having something that belonged to me at a time when I had so little was meaningful.”

Williams maintained a work schedule and was responsible for getting the oldest child to school. Shelter rules state guests have to leave the shelter during the day, so the father and youngest child would spend the days in the library, at the recreation center, and at parks throughout town.

“We needed the children to have the same routine we always had,” she added. “The shelter helped us a lot with keeping order and routine which helped us to be successful.”

Not long after moving into the shelter, Williams met her caseworker, Diane Alexander. That meeting was life changing, Williams said.

“I was both curious and intimidated by the prospect of meeting Diane,” Williams added. “Mostly, I was excited to see what was necessary to start the next chapter of our life.”

Williams said there was a point where simply putting her name on a piece of paper was too overwhelming. There were applications she didn’t understand, skills she needed to learn, and truths she needed to accept.

“I needed so much help. I needed many tissues to dry my tears. I needed someone that would tell me the truth and be completely straight up with me,” she said.

Alexander gave Williams all she needed to accomplish the family’s goals and find secure housing. For the first time, the family saved money.

“Diane heard every concern and helped with every housing application,” Williams said. “She never once left me in the dark. I never felt stuck about what our next step would be.”

It took a few months but with Alexander’s guidance, the family moved into a three-bedroom home in Jay. WMHO assisted with furnishing, moving, and making sure the family was securely settled.  Williams is thankful for the support Alexander continues to give more than a year later.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without Diane and the people at the shelter,” said Williams. “I wasn’t looking for a hand out. I just wanted a chance. That is what they gave me; a chance.”

For more information about WMHO, call 491-4100 or visit www.wmhomelessoutreach.org.

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