The only homeless shelter in Aroostook County is struggling.
“Funding is always a challenge for us. We’re a private non-profit organization. So we rely on the generosity of others to help us keep our doors open,” says Director of Homeless Services of Aroostook, Stephen Eyler.
While Sister Mary O’Donnell Homeless shelter receives funds from from Maine Housing, municipalities within the County, United Way of Aroostook, and private donations, unfortunately it’s not enough.
“We have a real problem here with homelessness in the County. We don’t see the dramatic differences that you would normally see in an urban setting. We don’t have the folks standing on the corners, we don’t have the folks pushing a shopping cart wearing four coats. We don’t have the visual differentiation between the population,” says Eyler.
Eyler says the shelter can house 43 people in their 11 rooms. He says they average around 563 people a year, and out of that 563, 150 are children.
“More and more folks being referred to us or calling us have needs that are far greater than what we can meet here and we’re turning folks away. On the average, we turn away about two to three people for every one person that we help,” says Eyler.
And because they have to turn them away, they shelter cannot count them. So the shelter isn’t able to show the full need in the County meaning they don’t get the funding they really need. But despite the challenges, Eyler says, the shelter continues to do the best it can for those it can help.
“We like to think of ourselves as a place of hope, and encouragement. We remind the shelter residents that this doesn’t define who they are. You’re not a homeless person, you’re houseless, and you’re here temporarily. We’re going to work with you and we’re going to do everything that we can to better your place,” says Eyler.
Eyler says 75 percent of the people at the shelter are from the County.
If you would like to help the shelter, you can mail a check to Sister Mary O’Donnell Shelter, P.O. Box 1753 Presque Isle, Maine 04769. Any other donations like clothing can be dropped off at the shelter.