LEWISTON — Nsambu Molosenga, his wife and 5-year-old daughter have all been sleeping together on the same mattress since they arrived in Lewiston earlier this year.

Although the mattress is too small to fit them all comfortably, the only other option would be to sleep on the floor.

As asylum-seekers from Angola, neither Molosenga nor his wife will be able to work and earn money for months to come. Federal law prohibits asylum seekers from applying for work authorization until they’ve been in the U.S. for at least six months.

That means while general assistance will help them pay for an apartment and get food, Molosenga and his family don’t have the means to purchase basic needs like mattresses or other household goods. For those, they must rely on assistance from local nonprofit organizations.

Lawrence Metzger, right, delivers a mattress Friday to Nsambu Molosenga at his Lewiston apartment as part of a collaboration between the Root Cellar, Community Clinical Service and the SHARECenter. Molosenga is a recent asylum-seeker from Angola where he made his living as a taxi driver. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Molosenga was grateful to receive three used twin mattresses Friday from the Root Cellar and Community Clinical Services. For the first time in months, he and his family will be able to spread out while they sleep.

His family was one of 19 in Lewiston to receive mattresses on Friday. All were recently arrived asylum-seekers, according to Root Cellar volunteer Amy Smith, who coordinated the deliveries.


Before receiving these mattresses, she said some of the families were “sleeping on the wooden floors with nothing.”

Parishioners from East Auburn Baptist Church also pitched in funds to purchase blankets for these families, Smith said.

In total, 60 mattresses were delivered to families in need. All were mattresses which Bowdoin and Colby colleges had planned to discard, according to SHARECenter Executive Director Lisa Rodrigues.

Rodrigues has provided mattresses to the Root Cellar and Community Clinical Services for more than a year. But when they came to her with a request for more than 50 a couple of months ago, she began calling around to see who may have unwanted mattresses.

Bates College wasn’t trading in any of their student mattresses this summer, she said, however Bowdoin and Colby were. So, she packed 60 in her truck to deliver to the Root Cellar and Community Clinical Services.

By doing so, she said the colleges each saved about $20 per mattress in disposal fees, and families in need are able to receive clean, albeit used, mattresses.


Rodrigues is aiming to provide mattresses to other local organizations including Safe Voices, Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services and the R.E.S.T. Center. Some teachers have even requested mattresses for students in need, she said.

Lawrence Metzger gets a high five from 5-year-old Ataliane Manuel as John Janelle hauls up the second of three mattresses being delivered Friday to the Angolan family in Lewiston. The twin size mattresses all came from Bowdoin and Colby colleges and are being delivered to recent asylum-seekers in the area as part of a collaboration between the Root Cellar, Community Clinical Service and the SHARECenter. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

She is searching for people with a clean and dry space who would be willing to temporarily store some mattresses in the meantime. The SHARECenter was recently flooded during one of the large rain events, and Rodrigues said she’s worried it could happen again and damage the mattresses.

“I can find (the mattresses),” she said. “The hardest part is the storage.”

In total, she estimates that the two colleges have about 200 twin mattresses which could be redirected to families in need.

Families who are in need of mattresses should reach out to the Root Cellar or Community Clinical Services, she said.

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