May 12, 2016
In early 2014, Jim’s hours were cut at a Rockland lobster processing plant.
Still having to come up with support for his four children and $120 weekly rent at a rooming house, he started to fall behind. Then the plant closed, there were “months without a paycheck,” and the only work he could find was part-time at McDonald’s.
“They didn’t pay much and that didn’t help me get caught up.”
By October, “I was working for [McDonald’s] and living in a small field behind the building. I didn’t have a tent. All I had was an air mattress, a blanket and a pillow,” donated by a couple sharing that spot.
“There’s a lot of homeless people here,” he says about the Midcoast of Maine. “They just hide quite well.”
In late fall, “it did a lot of raining and sleeting.” By early December the bitter cold had set in. “I walked up to the Hospitality House. I didn’t think they would help me because I thought it was just for women and children.”
“They hooked me up right away with a counselor and I did all the paper work. A couple of days later I met with Bill [Mead, a caseworker].”
One day before an epic snowstorm, The Knox County Homeless Coalition moved Jim into a motel room. “I never would have made that,” Jim, 57, says about the storm. “I’m getting too old for that stuff.”
With the help of coalition staff, he started receiving food stamps and veteran’s benefits, including health care: “They did all that work for me I would have had no idea how to do.”
Now Jim is in his own apartment in Rockland, after the coalition helped him secure a subsidized housing voucher, first month’s rent and security deposit. “And they got me a brand new bed.”
Medical attention resulted in a diagnosis of Stage Four liver disease. “I finally gave in,” to doctor’s orders and quit his job. He plans to volunteer at the Hospitality House, the organization, he says, that: “Does everything it possibly can.”
Photograph and story by Patrisha McLean.
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