Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

In theater improv, there is a grand tradition of the “Yes/And” practice. That is, if one actor suggests something or asks a question to another, the other actor may not say “no.” They must instead run with “yes, and…” using whatever unforeseen, unplanned, tricky or even ridiculous notion tossed out there to build upon for something new.

It’s like a back bend for the brain, stretching in the opposite direction from the usual to increase limberness and range.

Borrowing this tradition for use in real life can have equally fantastic results. Try it sometime – if you set yourself the task of a day, or even an hour, of saying “yes/and”  instead of no you might be absolutely astounded at what new paths open up in your work, your creative outlets or your relationships.

I would like to try this thought experiment with all of you as relates to the breathtaking new funding passed by the legislature and Gov. Mills to combat homelessness.

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, I am referring to the $100 million-plus added in a supplemental budget to create short-term as well as long-term, low-income housing in response to the growing number of people in Maine, both longtime residents and families seeking safe haven, who are unable to find safe, affordable housing.

This is a big deal. Granted, we are not quite Finland, which is on target to eradicate all homelessness by 2027, or even Utah, which is aiming for the same, but it is a big deal. To which, I would like to say “Yes! And…”


What if we did more?

What if, say, there were an entity – it could be government or private (Alfond Foundation perhaps?) – that set about to address ending homelessness through practical spaces and education? Imagine if this organization launched a program with a multi-unit apartment complex, intended for residencies of one to five years, with insanely low rent.

In exchange for the sweet deal, residents agreed to fully participate in the community life. For example, attending at least one of the continuing education courses, held weekly, on site in the common room, with a mix of practical life skills and personal enrichment topics. These might include budget management, furniture repair, home electronics, gardening, cooking, artisanal bread making, retirement planning, auto mechanics, art history, basic dog obedience, navigating the public school system, GED certification, civics, American history, foreign language and more.

Additionally, community life includes a community dinner night where everyone gathers in the common room once a month or so for a potluck style meal and maybe a movie or board games afterward. Don’t roll your eyes, it could be fun!

Add on some community gardening time with a central plot that everyone tends, and with individual plots available as well. Plus community outreach where each resident or family donates a few hours a month to an organization in the larger community, such as volunteering at the library, food bank or animal shelter.

Yes, and what if this organization then used its market leverage to purchase a modest home in need of work, and then invited adult apartment residents to join in fixing up this home under the guidance of a skilled contractor? Residents learn marketable skills, house gets fixed.


Yes, and what if once completed, that home would be available for purchase by one of the residents at a reasonable rate with the agency helping the resident navigate the bank and mortgage process?

Yes, and what if this model expanded? What if there were many such programs, all populating our neighborhoods with empowered, educated and invested new homeowners who feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as an understanding of the power in then reaching back to help the next one in line?

Yes, and wouldn’t it be cool if this project simultaneously restored the idea of homeownership to the average person, instead of this alarming trend of mega-corporations owning all the places left to live?

Wouldn’t that be something?

I know it’s a stretch, but in an age where millionaires fly into space for kicks, it seems like a doable one.

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