Bath community members discuss solutions to poverty at Bath City Hall Thursday. (Nathan Strout/The Times Record)

BATH — Following a series of discussions about homelessness in Bath and the Midcoast earlier this year, some Bath residents want to launch a Community Investors program to help people attain financial stability and avoid homelessness.

The idea is inspired by the Community Investors Initiative run by the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program in Waterville. In that program, community members work to help people achieve or maintain financial stability in order to avoid or escape homelessness.

While there are multiple agencies in the area designed to alleviate poverty, some requests fall outside of the functions of those agencies. There are programs set up to help people with their heating bills in the winter. Food banks can help lower families’ grocery bills, and soup kitchens can provide a hot meal to those in need. Other programs can help people with legal issues, find housing or provide medical needs.

Some needs don’t fit into neat categories of preexisting programs, explained Cheryl Leonard at a gathering Thursday. Leonard, who lead the Community Investors Initiative from it’s launch in 2015 until she stepped down in Oct. 1.

Leonard cited as an example one person Kennebec Valley Community Action worked with who needed a medical diagnosis to qualify for MaineCare, but couldn’t afford the $112 bill for the diagnosis. That need didn’t fit the mission of any of the programs in place, so it was referred to the Community Investors Initiative. In another instance, the program provided gas cards to someone diagnosed with breast cancer, whose medical bills and other financial burdens left her unable to fill up her car.

Here’s how the initiative works: Four area agencies get together and vet requests from people below the poverty line for assistance. The requests must be for something that no other area services can help with. If the program decides that the need cannot be met by other services, they send an email out to 200 people, the Community Investors, who can provide material or financial support to help meet that need.

The program acts as a discretionary fund that can fill in the gaps between various service providers and help people avoid financial and housing problems that can eventually lead to homelessness.

The decision to pursue this particular initiative follows four community conversations on homelessness hosted by The Neighborhood church in Bath earlier this year. Over the first three conversations, participants listened to people who had experienced or worked with homelessness or related issues. In the fourth conversation, participants took what they learned and talked about what solutions they could pursue in Bath, and then voted on their favorites. The concept of a Community Investors Initiative like the one at Kennebec Valley Community Action was the number one answer.

During the past few months, a small team has been looking into the program, and on Monday they had Leonard come to Bath to discuss her experiences with the initiative. Those in attendance expressed interest in pursuing the idea further. And with that positive feedback, the group will schedule another meeting in the coming months to develop the idea further

In the meantime, The Neighborhood will host another meeting  from 6:30-8 p.m., Nov. 13, at Bath City Hall, to hear from another group about another solution that was voted for at the last community conversation.

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