Letters from families living in emergency shelters or hotels or cars have arrived at the Press Herald Toy Fund over the years, but they were rare exceptions.

No more.

The steep rise in homelessness in Maine and across the country is reflected in a surge of heart-wrenching requests for help this year from parents who say they and their young children have no homes or are on the verge of becoming homeless.

“Our family is currently homeless and has been since January,” one mother wrote to the fund this year. “I have two daughters who live with me. They both try their hardest in school and are all around good kids. I am hoping to have something to give my girls on Christmas morning. It will be appreciated.”

“We have been living out of our car,” wrote the mother of a 16-year-old girl. ” I just need a little help this year.”

“My family has recently been evicted,” wrote another single mother.


“We are currently homeless staying with friends,” wrote yet another. “Things are really tough and hard right now with money.”

“I am a single mom of three, ages 17, 15 and 11. We are currently homeless and all my paychecks go to trying to save for an apartment…. I work a full time job but live paycheck to paycheck.”

“I can’t afford gifts like usual. I was served with an eviction and so now I need to use the money I get on moving expenses, and hopefully a new apartment for my kids and (me).”

And those are just some examples. There are more.

The rise in homelessness is happening all across the country, the result of economic fallout from the pandemic and a housing shortage that is driving up rents and evictions.

Maine experienced a 67% jump in homelessness from 2007 to 2022, one of the biggest jumps of any state, according to federal data. An annual census counted more than 4,200 people who were homeless in Maine early this year. About 300 of those people were unsheltered – living outside. That is triple the number of unsheltered people just four years ago, before the pandemic.


And those numbers don’t include many more families temporarily staying with friends or relatives or living week to week in hotels.

Public assistance can help homeless families so they don’t have to sleep outdoors or in cars. And government and nonprofit agencies are working to house people as quickly as possible given a severe shortage of affordable rentals.

But assistance programs only provide basic needs. They do not make sure children who are homeless receive a new toy or a book or a gift of any kind during the holidays.

That is where the Press Herald Toy Fund comes in. Thousands of Maine children, including some without homes, will have gifts to unwrap in the coming weeks because of the generosity of readers.

To make a donation online or apply for assistance, go to pressherald.com/toy-fund.

Checks made out to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund may be mailed to 295 Gannett Drive, South Portland ME 04106.


Names of donors are published in the Press Herald, the Sun Journal and the Times Record unless a donor wishes to remain anonymous.


(note: some donations include an additional amount to cover transaction fees)

Martha Taylor ….. $100

Peace and love. Barbara Gauditz ….. $1,000

Love from the Thayer Greenberg clan. Cindy Thayer ….. $120


Anonymous ….. $200

In memory of Virginia and Peter Pikelis. Mark and Cynthia Ayers ….. $100

Anonymous ….. $25

Merry Christmas! In loving memory of Jack Marsh. Emery Goff ….. $50

Thank you to the volunteers and the good done by this effort! Robert and Becky Malley ….. $50

Leslie Fleisher ….. $25


Happy Holidays! Beth and Bill Hudon ….. $250

Thank you for your work! Happy Holidays! ….. $1,000

Michael and Connie Beck ….. $250

In Memory of Ann Waterhouse ….. $50

In memory of Webster Granger. Jill Welch ….. $100

Stephanie and Paul Castle ….. $100


Lynn McCabe ….. $50

Laraine and Walter Lach ….. $50

Margaret Balassone ….. $250

Thomas Hickey ….. $50

Edmund Mccann ….. $50

In memory of my mother, Dorothy. ….. $50


Thank you for giving children some joy and hope. Order of AHEPA ….. $250

Jeanne and Dan Ouellette ….. $100

McGoldrick Family. Richard McGoldrick ….. $1,000

Anonymous ….. $100

In memory of Warren and Geraldine. Deborah Downs ….. $100

Go Santa!!!! Mike and Gigi D’Arcangelo ….. $50


Linell Slaktowicz ….. $15

Anonymous ….. $100

Mark Kingston ….. $325

Kathleen and Timothy Campbell ….. $150

Nancy Horigan ….. $50

Jean Scanlan ….. $500


Be kind whenever possible. It is always kind. Stephen Harris ….. $105.52

Anonymous ….. $17.50

To bring a smile. Tinley, Thomas & Billy ….. $21.35

Anonymous ….. $105.52

In loving memory of my father, David A. Wheatland. Becky ….. $105.52

Anonymous ….. $63.44


In honor of our parents who taught us the value of giving so that others can enjoy the spirit of Christmas. Chris & Chris Newell ….. $105.52

Anonymous ….. $105.52

In memory of Marf ….. $105.52

Anonymous ….. $52.91

Wrigley sez Ho Ho Ho ….. $210.73

In memory of Austin Mcintyre and Anna Pelosi ….. $100.00


Happy holidays! Jennifer Bragdon ….. $100.00

In memory of Kay ….. $105.52

Anonymous ….. $105.52

Happy Holidays – in memory of Donna Molinari ….. $105.52

Happy Christmas! ….. $26.61

Anonymous ….. $5,260.70


Thom and Judy Meschinelli ….. $21.35

Anonymous ….. $52.91

Possabilities ….. $79.55

Anonymous ….. $105.52

TOTAL TO DATE: $51,816.76

Comments are not available on this story.