A few days ago, at the high school where I work, I bumped into a student carrying an armload of snacks from the social workers’ Free Cart down the hall.

Anticipating a scolding, the student looked me in the eye and flatly asked, “Can I take these home to share with my family?”

Their no-nonsense tone surprised me, and I’ve wondered since whether it meant they had transcended the stigma of poverty through understanding its systemic causes, or if they just couldn’t afford to be apologetic. Amid the disturbing growth of economic insecurity in our area, a silver lining for me has been the boldness of our community’s response, from individuals like that student in the hallway and from organizations that work to alleviate poverty.

Social service providers who once prioritized discretion have countered the fear of stigma by creating new delivery models that insist on the dignity and shared humanity of everyone involved. Fueled by that same spirit, Tedford Housing has navigated a years-long bureaucratic odyssey to launch plans for a new emergency housing facility, which will allow clients and staff alike to thrive as they engage in the deep work of preventing and mitigating homelessness in the southern Midcoast.

Since its inception in a church basement 35 years ago, Tedford Housing has done a lot with very little. But now it’s time to do better than the cheek-by-jowl arrangement of its adult shelter built in 1900. It’s time for Tedford’s tireless staff to graduate from their cramped office, overstuffed with donated supplies demand constant re-organization as they ebb and swell.

Tedford’s new facility will increase its emergency housing capacity by 60% in keeping with Brunswick’s cap on shelter beds and will transform the delivery of services by bringing its two shelters, administration, and case managers under one roof. We’ll finally offer meeting spaces and transportation so clients can fully access the myriad critical supports available from partner agencies. This is the quality our community deserves, and that the moment demands of us.


Despite these improvements, it’s fair to ask: Does this project actually solve the local housing crisis? Will it accommodate the 85% of prospective clients whom Tedford turns away? On its own, no. But this facility is one element of a statewide strategic re-boot, organized across nine regional service hubs. Improved coordination and facilities throughout the state will shorten or even eliminate clients’ stays in emergency shelters on their way to stable housing.

There are many moving parts to the plan, but we in the southern Midcoast can play our part, for our neighbors, by being laser focused on getting Tedford’s new facility built.

Tedford is off to a roaring start on raising funds, having secured half the amount originally needed, before projected costs ballooned to double our target. While we pursue additional government and foundation funding, it’s clear this is going to be a community lift. We need the support of regular people, and I know our community is up to the task.

So, in the coming months you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from Tedford — same passion, same pride, new posture. This is a coming out party — it’s time for less concealer and more lipstick. Whether we’re tabling on the downtown mall or making crafts at your favorite brewery, stop by and say hi. For me, this campaign is the best excuse to reconnect with all the buddies I don’t make enough time for. If you know me, you’ll be hearing from me. If you don’t know me, reach out and let’s chat (info@tedfordhousing.org). And in the meantime — right now in fact — become a monthly donor at Tedfordhousing.org/giving.

Andrew Lardie is president of the Tedford Housing Board of Directors. 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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