Bates College professor Paul Schofield speaks Tuesday during a forum on homelessness at Trinity Commons in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — About 60 people showed up Tuesday at Trinity Commons for a Thai lunch and to hear Bates College philosophy professor Paul Schofield discuss “Homelessness and the Lewiston Auburn Community: Can We Move Forward Together?”

Schofield said that “Housing and homelessness are not topics philosophers usually talk about.”

But he’s in the middle of a yearlong quest to understand the issue by talking to people across the country who have “actual, real-world knowledge” about the topic.

Jane Costlow, a lay preacher at Trinity, explained that the issue is at the center of the community’s struggle to better itself.

Schofield said he doesn’t have the solution, but his research and talents did spur him to offer “some things to think about.”

One of the findings he’s seen in many places is that people who ought to be allies in searching for answers instead “wind up at each other’s throats.”


In San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, for example, “They all seemed angry at one another” rather than searching for ways to work together.

Auburn Mayor Jeff Harmon, left, Jane Costlow, center, and Jim Lysen participate Tuesday in a group discussion about homelessness during a forum at Trinity Commons in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

At the root of the problem, he said, is that nobody has the resources to make serious progress on their own.

The clashes among people who ought to be on the same side are “just a disaster politically” and wind up hurting efforts to get the aid and housing necessary to cope with the nationwide problem, he said.

Schofield said there are many “reasonable complaints” related to homelessness, from the way parks become difficult for children to use to navigating in a wheelchair on a sidewalk dotted with the tents of the unhoused.

Among those “reasonable complaints,” he said, is the recognition that parks full of needles and tents, for example, are not good places for the often-poor families and children who would love to use them.

Schofield said a starting point for the unhoused, their advocates and everyone is simply to recognize the legitimate beefs that other people have. That’s a necessary ingredient for civil conversation that may lead to better outcomes, he said.


Community members participate Tuesday in a group discussion about homelessness during a forum at Trinity Commons in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

He said that at a conference in Atlanta dealing with the nitty-gritty of housing the homeless, he noticed a repeated theme: to achieve success, people had to be “willing to show some grace” along the way.

They had to be willing to overlook some issues and to pick their battles with care.

“They thought it was part of their job to create conditions where grace could be extended” to help people move forward, Schofield said.

“We have to realize that we’re all in this together,” he said.

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