There are simply not enough homes available for people in our local community – especially for those with low incomes – but in the coming month, we have an inspiring opportunity to learn about one possible solution.  Brunswick will host award-winning author Kathy Izard, and hold book discussions of her memoir about building supported housing, The Hundred Story Home.   

Our team of volunteers at The Gathering Place creates a safe, welcoming space for some of the over 6,400 people who experience homelessness in every year in Maine, and we see the severe challenges people face in finding housing.  Nationally, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are fewer than 4 rental units available for every 10 people who live below the poverty line.  This is reflected in a fact John Hodge, the Brunswick/Topsham’s Housing Authority director, shared at one of our community conversations – that over a recent 14 month period, the authority issued 80 vouchers (which allow those lucky enough to obtain one to rent an apartment and pay only 30% of their income for rent), and less than 50% of those were able to find a place to rent.   This reality exists all around the country, and led Kathy Izard, a volunteer at a soup kitchen, to leave her work as a graphic designer and lead a community-wide effort to develop 100 units of supported housing in Charlotte, NC.   

First Parish Church, under the leadership of parishioner Carol O’Donnell, has worked with local organizations, agencies and faith communities to organize a community book discussion of The Hundred Story Home.    All are welcome to come and hear Kathy Izard speak on Tuesday, Oct 1 at 7:30 pm at First Parish Church, when she’ll share reflections on trusting the whisper, and her story about what it took to build more housing for those in need.  Many partners have collaborated to support her visit, including Midcoast Hospital, The Haney Fund, First Parish Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Brunswick Area Interfaith Council, Curtis Memorial Library and Bowdoin College.  All the partners hope that many people will come to hear the story of how she transformed lives by raising $10 million to build a complex of 100 apartments with support services.  Then they went on to develop hundreds of other units, using this Housing First approach, and have reduced the homeless population of Charlotte by 30%.    

Everyone is also invited to participate in one of the four book discussion groups that have been scheduled at different community locations, facilitated by leaders from local agencies and faith communities.   On Wed., Sept 18 from 4:00 – 5:30 pm, Karen Parker, Executive Director of Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) and Elise Hocking, Bowdoin intern at Tedford Housing will lead a discussion at MCHPP, 12 Tenney Way in Brunswick.  On Wed., Sept 25, Pastor Mary Baard will lead a discussion at First Parish Church in Pilgrim House, 9 Cleaveland St., Brunswick, from 10 – 11:00 am.  On Tuesdays Oct 8 and 15, Andree Appel, former Chair of the Board of Tedford Housing, will lead discussions at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St., from 2 – 3:30 pm.  And on Wed., Oct 9 a discussion will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Middle St. in Brunswick, from 6 – 7:30 pm., facilitated by Mary Connolly, Executive Director of The Gathering Place, and Jon Larssen, Director of Spiritual Wellness at Midcoast-Parkview Health.  The book is available at the Gulf of Maine Bookstore, 134 Maine St. in Brunswick, and at Curtis Memorial Library (while supplies last), and you can also listen to it on audible.com.  Find out more about the author and the community events at www.firstparish.net/izard/.  Come join in the discussion about how we can reduce homelessness!  

Mary O’Brien is a volunteer at The Gathering Place and a community activist.  Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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