September 20, 2016
“This is my filing cabinet,” Lester says, pointing to the papers clamped to the passenger seat visor. “All the bills that we can’t pay right now.” Since April, Lorry, Lester and their Caynunga, have been living out of their car and sleeping “in gravel pits and down a lot of dirt roads,” from Appleton to Friendship. “Can’t afford $600 a month for a campsite,” Lorry says. “When we were young and camping for fun we pitched a tent on the beach, no problem, but today everything is closed right down. Whenever we find a place to put our tent, within two or three days we have a letter on it saying we need to move it. Even in the pouring rain we’ve had to pack up in the middle of the night.”
Most weekday mornings bring them to Rockland for doctor appointments. Lester has a broken back. Lorry, “two growths in my neck, and because of them I’m losing my teeth. They’re just falling out.
“All we need is a sterile place to lay until we can get our surgeries.”
The couple is on the waiting list for a low-income housing voucher from the state, and according to Lorry, “were number 16 and dropped to number 18.” According to their caseworker with the Knox County Homeless Coalition, Rhonda **, “This is what we’re up against a lot. The availability of vouchers “has slowed way down,” and then when one is finally gotten, “there are really long wait lists for the housing properties. Sometimes general assistance will help, sometimes they won’t,” says Rhonda. “Churches are getting tapped out too.” She says Lorry and Lester, “are really good-hearted people.” When I come to see them I ask if I can bring food and Lorry will say ‘We’re OK. Keep it for someone else.’” In addition to helping to get them housing, she is working with our wonderful partners at Bangor Savings Bank to improve their credit.
Giving a tour of the car trunk, Lorry says, “We try to stay organized because if we don’t we will lose track of where our stuff is. “Cayunga’s got his bag of stuff here. Of course we have to have our bible bag.” Other indispensables are facial wipes and — for light, warmth, and to minimize the bugs — “no matter what you use the horseflies will come after you” — Tiki torches.
Lorry was a cook at the Come Spring Café and Lester a farmer until they were sidelined with health problems. Now, they live on Lorry’s disability check of $649 a month, supplemented with picking periwinkles: “In Japan they use them as escargots,” At the same time Lorry harvests sea heather for the wreathes she is making for Christmas gifts. (“We are the connoisseurs of homeless. Some of the places we camp at are so beautiful.”) Lorry says, “I know it’s hard times for everybody but when you are in this situation you know you are in dire straits. We never thought we would be homeless. In the beginning, I would tell Lester ‘Don’t say anything,’because I was embarrassed, but now I realize sometimes you are put in lots of situations to be humble. And we have become very humble.”
Photograph and story by Patrisha McLean.
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