Hawkins, who sleeps in an unheated garage in Westbrook, stands outside Walker Memorial Library, where he is a frequent visitor. Robert Lowell / American Journal

A 50ish man who goes by the single name of Hawkins is a familiar face in downtown Westbrook, where he treads Main Street bundled up in layers of clothing under a long leather coat and toting a backpack.

Hawkins has no permanent home but refuses to be described as homeless. He prefers being called “an adventurer” instead. He has permission to sleep in an unheated garage, which has no electricity or water, he said. Lately, he’s been shoveling snow to earn money for food.

“I don’t do the 9-5,” he said.

Nor does he receive, by choice, any government assistance.

“I don’t beg, borrow or steal,” Hawkins said in an interview with the American Journal last week.

He is among the city’s unhoused population, the numbers of which the Westbrook Community Housing Coalition would like to help reduce. The coalition, comprised of citizens, city officials, agencies and clergy, in addition to working to find overnight shelters for asylum seekers, also had hopes of providing nightly accommodations for people living on the streets.


People living on Westbrook’s streets have had little interest in the coalition’s efforts.

Outreach efforts by the First Baptist Church to learn what unhoused people would like to see in a local shelter have so far been fruitless, and the church concluded that even a daytime warming shelter was not wanted by those living outside, the Rev. Scott Linscott, a coalition member, told the American Journal in January.

“We wish they would use it but they are afraid to leave their spots and property because of theft,” Linscott said, adding that the church would revisit the idea if interest arose.

For Hawkins, the word shelter strikes a negative chord. He would prefer that such a facility be identified as a “drop-in warming center” or something similar, he said. He envisions a warming center that would be welcoming to the housed and unhoused, including musicians, who could pop in to entertain. He suggested a suitable site could be the former fire station on Mechanic Street.

He doesn’t like to associate with homeless people, and they’re not part of his network because “they will suck you dry,” he said. He keeps a close eye on his backpack at all times because it was once stolen.

He is content with his living arrangement. Each day when he emerges from his sleeping bag in the unheated garage he thanks God and Jesus, he said, and asks for strength. Then he heads out for Main Street, which he refers to as “The Grapevine” because that’s where he learns the latest buzz in the city.


Hawkins’ story

Hawkins grew up in Raymond and the Duck Pond Corner area of Westbrook, he said. In his youth, he took dancing lessons. He was a member of the Westbrook High School class of 1988 until he dropped out. He earned his diploma in 2003 to please his mother, who’s now 85, he said.

In the meantime, he traveled.

“Out there, it is its own university,” he said.

Hawkins spins his Magic 8 Ball. “Making people laugh makes me feel good,” he says. Robert Lowell / American Journal

In towns up and down I-95, he danced with theatrical groups for donations in street shows, he said, and his journey led him led him to California and Washington state.

The last 5½ years he’s been at home in downtown Westbrook.


He often can be found near the Big Apple, post office and Walker Memorial Library. Suzie Hubbard, who lives in the area has chatted with him.

“He’s a good person, always has been respectful to me,” Hubbard said. “Just give him a lot of credit for how he endures all he goes through day to day.”

He entertains others by playing music and doing some street dancing. Vehicles have stopped to film him and someone told him they saw video of him on the internet, he said.

“Making people laugh makes me feel good,” Hawkins said.

He also entertains himself, he said, to buoy his spirits and stay mentally sharp. He consults a Magic 8 Ball when he’s down.

He has nicknames for his friends along Main Street: Eli, Sunshine, Big Dave, Chill Bill and Steve. He’s a frequent visitor at Walker Memorial Library, which he has dubbed “The Castle.” There he gets leads on odd jobs, sometimes bumps into old classmates and charges a cell phone someone gave him. Last Tuesday he was there bright and early, ready to play some music outside on the steps.


He doesn’t smoke cigarettes or drink coffee, and “I don’t stick needles in my arm,” he said, but he’s not averse to having a beer or playing cards.

Hawkins takes responsibility for where he’s at in life. He once liked to party, he said, but “it catches up with you.”

Coalition work continues 

Though Hawkins is happy with his lot, the Westbrook Community Housing Coalition has been meeting twice a week this winter to continue its efforts for those who might feel differently, especially asylum seekers who are being displaced from area hotels because funding for those temporary sheltering operations has dried up.

McLellan Robert Lowell / American Journal

The coalition has hit major roadblocks, however. Its attempt to quickly set up a shelter in Westbrook has been met with cost prohibitive ordinances and other shelter requirements, including providing an appropriate number of bathroom facilities with showers, counseling services and trained security.

“My understanding is that the city of Portland is looking for large spaces to house a large number of people and there is nothing available in Westbrook,” coalition co-Chairperson Liz Eisele McLellan said this week.

On Monday, the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition opened a temporary shelter for 77 people in downtown Portland and it was full on the first night, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald.

In Westbrook, the library and community center are available during business hours as drop-in warming facilities, Mayor Michael Foley said.

“Should extreme weather conditions present themselves again, we have the potential to open very limited overnight sheltering options in the Community Center with the support of volunteers. Both of these facilities are centrally located in the city and accessible by Metro,” Foley said.

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