The following article was published in The Times Record on 6/28/19 and written by Elise Hocking, the Maine Community Fellow at Tedford Housing and a rising sophomore at Bowdoin College.
During my first year at Bowdoin College, I ran down Federal Street countless times on my way to the bike path along the river. Going into the summer, I felt confident navigating my way around the town of Brunswick. To my surprise, on my first day at Tedford Housing, I learned that one of the houses that I consistently ran by was Tedford Housing’s family shelter. While the shelter is not marked by a Tedford sign, I was still shocked by my lack of awareness.
This summer, as the Maine Community Fellow at Tedford Housing, my primary job is to evaluate and improve Tedford’s volunteer program. However, in order to do this work, I need to be familiar with the needs of the community of Brunswick and the nonprofits and individuals seeking to address these needs. Over the course of the last several weeks, I have spent much of my time talking to staff at other nonprofits, active community members, and guests at Tedford’s shelters in order to deepen my understanding of the pressing, yet often overlooked, challenges that exist right here in Brunswick.
Although my time at Tedford has just begun, I have come to witness how homelessness intensifies every other struggle an individual faces. Food insecurity, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health issues are all escalated by homelessness. In high school, I spent significant time focused on anti-poverty efforts through the lens of education. My belief in the transformative power of education has certainly not diminished, however, I have quickly adopted the mindset of Housing First.
Without the stability of a place to stay each night, it is unlikely that someone facing homelessness will have the ability to devote sufficient energy to seek out additional resources. Homelessness produces a short-term mindset because an individual has to constantly worry about physical safety and shelter. Before someone can be expected to take the necessary and often complicated steps to improve their situation, they should have access to housing, nutritious food and support.
My role in furthering Tedford’s mission of “creating pathways from homelessness to home by partnering with people and their communities in Midcoast Maine,” is to increase community support through volunteers. In beginning this work, I met with the volunteer coordinators at Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program and The Gathering Place to learn about best practices in recruiting, retaining, and appreciating volunteers. Unlike MCHPP or The Gathering Place, some people do not know that it is possible to volunteer for Tedford. While Tedford’s volunteer program is not as developed as that of our partners, Tedford still relies on the contributions of volunteers to support its services.
Volunteers for Tedford work in the office, the storage unit that houses donations, the gardens, and in their own kitchens. Tedford’s largest volunteer effort is the Meal-A-Month program through which restaurants, churches, neighborhood groups and individuals take turns providing a meal for guests at the adult shelter every single night of the year.
Beyond our Meal-A-Month program, Tedford Housing is currently looking to grow our other volunteer roles. If you are a gardener, you can help maintain our plots at our family shelter and affordable housing units. If you are creative and organized, you can help us connect entering and exiting guests with donated items. If you are already a supporter of Tedford Housing, you can help us relaunch the Friends of Tedford group. These are just a few of the ways you can get involved in Tedford Housing’s mission. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming more involved with Tedford, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to have you join us in Tedford’s many initiatives to end homelessness.