The Gathering Place shelter in Brunswick will keep its warming center open nightly through winter with the help of a MaineHousing grant.

The $96,000 grant will pay for staffing and operations costs to keep the center running every day from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. The center, the only of its kind in the Midcoast, opened last week and will stay open through April.

Louise Gephart, one of the volunteers who helps run The Gathering Place, helps a guest. Courtesy of The Gathering Place

“Warming centers are an important emergency resource,” said Mary Connolly, The Gathering Place’s executive director. “If you’re living outside and experiencing homelessness in Maine, it can be dangerous and life-threatening in the winter.”

The Gathering Place, a nonprofit founded in 2010, runs the only day shelter in the Midcoast. The organization opened the warming center following the 2019 death of Russell Williams, a frequent client of The Gathering Place who was found dead in a sleeping bag after spending a cold night outside by a set of train tracks in Brunswick.

“When he died, it made us realize there’s this gap in resources,” Connolly said. “It highlighted how important having overnight warming centers are in Maine. This is a very vulnerable population.”

She credited MaineHousing for awarding the funding, calling it a “significant investment.”


The center had been opened on an as-needed basis during cold nights in the winter; this will be the first year it’s open nightly. Last winter, about 10 people used it every night it was open, according to Connolly.

Seven people used the center the first night it was opened last week, Connolly said. Three to four people have used it each night since; she expects more people will use it as temperatures drop. Its capacity is 25–35 people, depending on staffing.

The center doesn’t have beds but offers chairs, blankets, food and coffee. Connolly said people should call the shelter at 729-0288 to register to use the center.

“It’s a safe, warm space,” Connolly said. “It’s a reliable community resource, something people can count on.”

She credited town Councilor Abby King with helping the shelter apply for the MaineHousing funding.

“Spread the word to anyone who might know folks who might be in need of a place to be during these cold nights,” King said during a recent council meeting.

Connolly said The Gathering Place welcomes donations, especially warm clothes and hot meals during the winter.

“This is a community-wide effort,” she said.

The Gathering Place, Brunswick’s day shelter, at 5 Tenney Way, where Russell Williams visited every day before his death. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record file photo

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