ORLAND — Scores of volunteer groups, usually from churches, descend upon HOME Co-op every spring and summer to help the organization that helps the homeless.
This week, a group of parishioners from United Parish in Brookline, Mass., are working on a single-family house that belongs to HOME.
“I’m doing things I didn’t think I was capable of,” said volunteer Madeline Kennedy. “I’ve been ripping old shingles off a house. It’s getting me excited for the rest of the week.”
HOME’s executive director, Tracey Hair, said the organization’s mission is to provide people with basic needs.
From early March through September, known as “volunteer season,” HOME hosts groups that have come to help repair and renovate the organization’s aging buildings and shelters.
The 23-acre campus off Route 1 in Orland includes housing for homeless people, shelters for women, a licensed daycare center, transitional housing, a gift shop, art studio, stained glass shop, lumber yard and more.
The type of work the groups do depends on their skill levels, Hair said. Last week’s group included experienced carpenters, so they built a handicapped-accessible ramp at one of the women’s shelters and installed a playground.
Hair said the “original enterprise” of HOME was handmade crafts, adding, “We are trying to revive that.”
“The idea is to provide a space for homeless people in the community,” Hair said.
Working with hands “develops self-esteem,” Hair said.
HOME has a homeless resident who is carving a walking stick for her grandfather. While she’s carving, she’s telling stories, which helps take her focus off of her problems, Hair said.
“It also stimulates interests in people that they might not know they had.”
Caring for homeless people is “about taking a risk,” Hair said. “It is messy. You have to create a space where it’s easy for people to be good.”
HOME’s enterprise extends beyond Orland.
The Emmaus Center on Water Street in Ellsworth is one of HOME’s four homeless shelters.
“We acquired that shelter in 1991 and began taking residents in 1992,” Hair said. “The shelters in Orland were opened in 1979.”
Other HOME properties include the Dorr House men’s shelter in Orland and the Sister Marie House and St Francis Inn, which are women’s shelters in Orland.
“Altogether we can provide up to 55 beds of emergency shelter on any given night,” Hair said.
“We have 20 units of transitional housing in Hancock County — residents stay for up to two years,” she said. Also, three permanent housing units in Hancock County can be rented without time limits.
HOME employs 37 people, 16 of whom first arrived as homeless people in need of services, Hair said.
Funding comes from two annual appeals, sales of lumber, crafts, and holiday wreaths as well as some funding from the State of Maine Emergency House and Shelter Assistance program and private foundation grants.