AUBURN — Once a week, despite his job and the responsibilities of raising his three kids, Dan and his friend visit homeless camps in Lewiston and Auburn trying to connect those in need with community services to help improve their situation.

He knows which local organizations have food banks, serve hot meals and distribute warm clothes, in part, because he’s used those same services.

In the past 16 months, Dan and his children have moved no fewer than six times. They’ve lived in campers, stayed with friends and family, and rented hotel rooms by the week as Dan works to save enough money to afford a permanent place for them to live.

“I can relate to them and I can connect to them because I’m in that situation,” he said of those living in homeless camps. “You see me in dress shoes, khakis and a dress shirt, but I’m not any different.”

After 16 months of saving and searching, Dan still has not been able to find a permanent home for himself and his three children. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

In 2020, Dan left his apartment to move in with his parents and help take care of his sick father. While living there, he became the primary parent for his children – now 10, 12 and 13 years old – after the Department of Health and Human Services discovered that their mother was using drugs, he said. At the time, Dan said he was working upward of 60 hours a week landscaping.

“What bothers me the most is not that I’m in this situation, it’s just that they’re in this situation because it’s harder on my children,” he said. “I can survive in the cold, you know, but they can’t. They’re still kids. They’re still growing.”


The Sun Journal has agreed to publish only Dan’s first name to protect the privacy of his children.

When his father died in August 2021, Dan and his children soon found themselves with nowhere to go. The landlord had declined to let him take over his parents’ lease when his mother moved in with his sister.

“I give all the credit in the world to my dad because my dad always told me ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,'” he said. “He’s always told me ‘Nobody is any different than you no matter where and what in life you can be.'”

They began staying with friends, at one time sleeping on a couple of air mattresses in a friend’s basement for about a month. Then, a buddy helped him transport a camper he had found for free on social media from Massachusetts to the Auburn Walmart parking lot. They lived there for another month until the camper was towed because it lacked a registration.

Dan, center, spends time with friends in Lewiston’s Kennedy Park. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

With few options, Dan and his children temporarily moved in with his sister at the beginning of December. But they had to leave just a day or two after Christmas. The landlord learned there were four extra people living in the house, which was a violation of the lease.

That’s when Dan and his children began living at the Ramada in Lewiston. His church, Victory Baptist in Winthrop, paid for the first couple of nights. Then, staff at the PAL Center in Auburn helped cover several weeks more and Community Concepts covered another month.


Stable housing enabled Dan to get a job working in the hotel restaurant, Fusion Restaurant and Lounge, and start saving money toward an apartment.

Most landlords he contacted required a first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit up front, he said, calculating that he would need to save about $5,400 for an apartment with an $1,800 monthly rent.

Eventually, he took on the cost of their room at the Ramada – $780 per week – which included an employee discount. Working 45 hours a week, he figured it would take at least eight months before he had enough money saved for an apartment.

But as his income from working at the Ramada increased, his state assistance provided to help support his children decreased.

Dan, center, receives a pair of new gloves from New Beginnings street outreach staff member Josh Hughes, left, in Kennedy Park in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

When summer hit, he found another free camper from a member of his church and began paying $150 a week to live in the parking lot, hoping to maximize his savings.

“It was just taking too much of the money out of my wallet,” he said. “I felt like I was working just to pay for my room. And I just couldn’t do it anymore.”


But when the state learned of his living arrangements, he was pressed to once again rent a hotel room so his children could have access to a working shower and toilet. Doing so cost him most of his savings.

As they moved from place to place, the children continued attending their schools in Auburn. Under federal law, school districts must provide transportation for homeless students so they can continue going to the same school, even if they’re staying outside of the district.

As a teen, Dan dropped out of school and never earned his high school diploma. He wants his children to do better.

“‘Do you guys want to be where we are when you’re older?'” he recalled asking them. “‘You need to get to school and you have to get (an) education. You have to be educated on life.”

And even through their hardships, the family has continued to attend church twice a week.

During the summer, Dan told his children they would need to move back in with their mom until he could find a place to live. But they refused to do so unless he came too, he said.

So at the start of the school year in September, Dan and his kids moved into their mother’s place with her teenage son in Auburn. It’s not an ideal situation for many reasons, he said, perhaps the least of which because it’s a violation of her lease. But the temporary arrangement allows his children to be warm and live in relative normalcy while he builds his savings.

And more than a year after becoming homeless, Dan and the children continue to search for a place to call home.

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