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Homelessness is not just a problem in big cities. Smaller towns are also dealing with people living on the streets, in tents and in their cars.
It’s becoming such a problem in the town of Scarborough that officials are taking action after learning about homeless encampments in the woods behind Marden’s, off Payne Road and in the parking lots of big box stores.
“We’re not bad people. We’re just trying to survive,” said Melissa Brooks.
Maine’s Total Coverage found Brooks and her fiancée, Shawn Schilling, in the back corner of the Walmart parking lot. Schilling was trying to fix the camper they just bought for $700 after living in hotels and in a tent.
“This camper – it ain’t the best, but it’s not the worst,” Brooks said.
The couple came to Maine from Ohio. They haven’t had an apartment in years. Schilling is a truck driver and has been on the road. He has a job in Portland, but the two cannot afford a place to live. Their camper is home for now.
“It’s better than sleeping on the street or sleeping in a tent right now. It’s so cold,” Brooks said.
They are among the estimated 60 to 100 people considered homeless in Scarborough. Most of them were being put up at this Comfort Inn on Route 1, but the funds have expired and soon they will be evicted.
“Those things that were kind of camouflaged before are now popping out into eyesight, but it is happening here; it’s happening everywhere,” said Lauren Dembski-Martin, a social services navigator for Scarborough.
Dembski-Martin said the town is applying for a $10,000 federal grant so they can send social workers into the field to gather information about the homeless population.
“I think that’s just it. It was camouflaged for so long and now it’s not and now we really need to get a good grasp on what is going on and how do we help these individuals. And how do we come together as a community in helping these individuals,” Dembski-Martin said.
As for Brooks and her fiancé, they just hope they won’t get kicked out of the parking lot, at least until the camper is mobile. Brookes described what it is like to be homeless.
“It’s depressing. I want to give up sometimes, you know, it’s like I don’t know – I cry a lot. But my faith is big, so I know God is going to get us through this and get us somewhere else,” Brookes said.
Scarborough plans to submit that grant application by the end of this week. If approved, they can use that $10,000 later this year. In the meantime, they will visit as many people as they can, handing out care packages with a note inside that says, “We care about you.”
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