ORLAND — HOME Inc., which operates four homeless shelters and two food pantries in Hancock County, held its annual meeting May 20 and remembered the unexpected challenges that operating in a pandemic brought the organization.
The meeting was held via the online meeting platform Zoom because of the pandemic.
“It’s been a hard year for all of you and we’re grateful to have helped you a little along the way,” said Tracey Hair, executive director.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, HOME converted its daycare center into a shelter space using cots delivered by the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
“We started an outdoor food pantry,” Hair said. “We provided internet access for guests, so they had access to the same information as us.”
“In the beginning, our evenings were filled with PPE (personal protective equipment) drops,” said Hair. There were calls to the Governor to advocate for hotels to remain open for domestic violence victims.
“We became certified to test for COVID-19 and trained six staff,” Hair said. Recently, HOME coordinated with Bucksport Regional Health Center and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to create a pop-up clinic to vaccinate shelter guests.
Several staff members spoke as well.
Program Coordinator Julie Ream said, “It’s pretty grim out there for those living in poverty.”
“While HOME is not a political organization, workers provided testimony for several bills in the Maine Legislature last year,” Ream said.
Mike Guare is the new chairman for HOME’s board of directors, and he had good news: the organization is in the black.
“When I came on the board, HOME was deep in debt,” Guare said. “Maybe for the first time in history, HOME has the resources to not be going from crisis to crisis. We now have the ability to enter the next and even brighter stage of HOME’s development.”
That stage is a strategic plan for the organization.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” said Guare. “We’ve recently engaged the services of Starboard Leadership [Consulting]. We hope to have a final product that will inform what we do for the next five years in a very thoughtful and purposeful way.”
In addition to the shelters and food pantries, HOME offers child-care services, craft training and a woodshed pantry.
Rosa Moore, assistant director of HOME, said food costs in Maine are nearly 18 percent higher than the rest of the U.S. “Maine is 12th in the nation for food insecurity,” Moore said.
“It is important to realize that even the small things HOME does make a difference for struggling families.”
Donations to help HOME can be made on the organization’s website https://www.homemmausa.org. There is also a list of items the organization needs.