When Bowdoin Students Cross the Endowment Line

The following article was published in The Times Record on 8/10/18 and was written by Annie Rose, the Maine Community Fellow at Tedford Housing during the summer of 2018. She is a junior at Bowdoin College.

Right here in Brunswick sits an institution with an extraordinarily vast abundance of resources and seemingly endless amount of funding, that which only a private liberal arts institution can attain. But beyond this very real, yet imaginary “endowment line” exists the growing challenge of homelessness in our community. Bowdoin College, my Maine home, situates itself within the larger Midcoast region currently working to support many of their neighbors who do not have a place to call home.

At Bowdoin, a school known for its commitment to the Common Good, students and faculty choose to teach or enroll in community oriented courses, attend lectures discussing the pressing social issues of our time, and regularly engage in conversations on socioeconomic class, racism, power and privilege, food insecurity, and homelessness. But for many, I find it fair to say they perceive these issues as largely distant. Only until I became directly involved with Tedford Housing did I grasp the true extent of poverty in our backyard and the community efforts working against it. Simultaneously living at Bowdoin College and working at Tedford Housing for the summer, and alternating between the two worlds each day, made the difference and juxtaposition readily apparent.

As the summer intern at Tedford Housing, I witnessed the daily operations of the primary agency addressing the growing challenge of homelessness and limited affordable housing in the Midcoast region. On any given day, there are over 100 people in the southern Midcoast region who are homeless. And countless more of our neighbors must fight to remain in their homes with the possibility of being homeless tomorrow. Tedford Housing partners with people to build paths back to stability. At Tedford, when action meets compassion, change happens. Everyday, when Tedford works with people either experiencing homelessness, at risk, or striving to maintain stability after having emerged from homelessness, progress towards ending homelessness is made

During my time with Tedford, I have also witnessed the shared dedication and interconnectedness of local agencies working together to improve the lives of neighbors in need of a hand-up, all-the-while instilling lasting hope for tomorrow. Not only do agency staff work together daily, but also the agencies share volunteers. Many of our Tedford volunteers and Board Members can be seen regularly preparing meals for the Soup Kitchen at MCHPP, welcoming visitors at The Gathering Place with a hot cup of coffee, and donating their time and medical qualifications to directly work with patients at Oasis Free Clinics.

And best of all, I’ve heard from many different people how Tedford came to be and understood how deeply rooted it is in Brunswick. As many people in the town of Brunswick already know, Tedford Housing officially began its commitment to creating pathways from homelessness to home in 1987. It grew from local residents recognizing that many of their neighbors were hungry. So, they provided food. And then, as their partnership with their neighbors grew, they realized they were also in need of shelter. And then, they worked to provide that too.

Only when I breached the Bowdoin Bubble did I truly understand the full extent of homelessness resting uneasily right outside our campus and the wide-spread community effort dedicated to finding and implementing solutions to end it. So, Brunswick lets continue to support Tedford, because Brunswick is Tedford and Tedford is Brunswick.

During my time at Bowdoin, I’ve been prompted regularly to explore and question what constitutes working towards the common good. Here at Tedford, once pushed to cross the “endowment line” each day, I believe I’ve landed somewhere solid in my understanding of exemplary commitment to community and devotion to the common good. Bowdoin College – its faculty, staff, and students alike – have much to learn from the many community members and local organizations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all its neighbors, and so much to give.

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