When people experience homelessness, lives in progress become lives interrupted. The longer someone remains in homelessness, the more destabilizing the effects of that interruption. Each individual or family has a story or circumstance that brought them to a place of not having a home.

Much has been written about the causes of homelessness; housing affordability, family separation, job loss, health catastrophe, etc. In recent years, homeless advocates have emphasized the cost savings of placing people in housing versus lengthy stays in shelters or other public institutions such as jails or hospitals. This is a strong argument for embracing Housing First strategies for combatting homelessness.

But perhaps we don’t talk enough about what happens to people when housing is restored. For a young man in Bath, an apartment in a Tedford Housing supportive housing building offered him a stable platform to enroll and participate in ongoing community mental health services, including medication management. As a result, he has been able to reduce the frequency of delusions and disturbing thoughts that plagued him for years when he lived on the streets.

For the mother and her teenage children in Brunswick that survived living in their vehicle for a year, stable housing in a three bedroom apartment means an older daughter enrolled in courses to learn skills in the building trades and a son on his way to graduating high school.

We can’t forget the older gentleman who lost his apartment when the building he was living in was sold. As he did the best he could sleeping in barns and the porches of friends, his physical condition worsened, and when he got to the Tedford Housing adult shelter he required a number of extensive surgeries to restore his mobility. Today, he thrives in his apartment in Lincoln County and has many supportive neighbors and friends to connect with. One need only to shake his hand to know what housing has meant to him.

These are just a few success stories that come from Tedford Housing’s broad umbrella of programs and services. The successes come with a lot of work on the part of our clients who are often doing such work in times of crises. They come with a lot of support from our amazing case managers.

These successes can get lost in the fray when tragic and unexpected incidents like the one that happened at Tedford Housing’s family shelter earlier this week occur. The bulk of this article was written before the shooting occurred and we are heartbroken that our clients, staff and those surrounding us were exposed to the trauma an event like this causes. We are thankful for the support we have received from our partners and community members. For people who stopped by with hugs, food and a willingness to help in any way they were able. We are thankful for the efforts of the mental health community who are working with us to provide the counseling support for families in our shelter and others affected.

Getting our fellow citizens experiencing homelessness out of the cold and roughness of the Maine weather is a compelling enough reason to offer shelter and, ultimately, housing. But when housing is restored for people who have gone without it, sometimes for months or years, so too is the progress in their lives. We cannot lose sight of this simple fact. As Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, this may be a good time to think about the meaning of home, and why providing shelter is just the first step of the work we do at Tedford Housing, with the ultimate goal being stable, permanent housing.

Giff Jamison is the director of operations at Tedford Housing. Jennifer Iacovelli is the director of Development.

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