Will, right, opens a box containing deodorant and toothpaste from an anonymous donor Wednesday at the New Beginnings Drop-In Center in Lewiston. At left: Amber Kruk, a member of the staff at New Beginnings. The center serves homeless teenagers, including runaways. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

LEWISTON — A youth intern at a Lewiston center for homeless teens said a simple stick of deodorant can change a person’s life.

“If you don’t put deodorant on, you’re going to stink,” said Will, 18, who helps out at the New Beginnings Drop-In Center on College Street. The center asked that he be identified by first name only.

“People distance themselves from you. You won’t get a job. People don’t want to be friends with someone that smells. Hygiene is key.”

Will has been homeless in the past and is still “kinda working on that,” he said.

He grew up in Lewiston and said he finds he can talk to kids in a way the staff at the center cannot. He recently helped two groups of agitated teens move along, reminding them of the center’s rules and the importance of keeping the center a safe space.

“We don’t want homeless people to feel scared to come in, especially when it’s raining out,” Will said.

The Drop-In Center has showers for kids. If they fear they might not be safe at the center, however, they will not take advantage of its services. That could lead to bad hygiene.

“You don’t want your hair all greasy,” Will said. “That’s a really bad reputation for you.”

Will has assembled his own deodorant drawer, mostly because of friends giving him — re-gifting — Christmas deodorants and toothpastes. He said he passes along the items to friends who ask to borrow his.

“You don’t want your armpits stinking. I put deodorant on every day.”

Earlier this week, the center had put out a call for deodorant on its Facebook page, which featured a “We Can Use It Wednesday” promotion. The center has had to turn down many requests recently from youths who, among other things, need deodorant.

An anonymous supporter of the center, herself formerly homeless, saw the call and sent two boxes of deodorant, toothpaste and other hygiene products.

In addition to deodorant, for which there seems to be an endless need, the center regularly collects razors, toothbrushes, socks, underwear and sleeping bags.

The center’s entire wish list can be found at www.newbeginmaine.org/wish-list/.

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