The Working Homeless in Maine
During the summer of 2022 a group of homeless residents set up camp on an island in the Kennebec River in Waterville, Maine. Shane Moody found himself with nowhere to go after his wife kicked him out of the home they had shared for five years. Shawn Stanford and Amanda Frasier were evicted from their apartment after a disagreement with their landlord following burst pipes.
The three ended up in the small community that formed around the encampment, where they were still close to social services downtown and the restaurant where Moody and Stanford worked washing dishes.
Their situation is representative of the experience of the working homeless – people who have jobs and earn a paycheck, but don’t have enough to cover rent or a mortgage. It also coincided with an unprecedented housing crunch and a spike in homelessness and drug use in Maine following the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 2022, more than 4,400 people in Maine were experiencing homelessness on a nightly basis in a sharp increase from 2021.
Over the course of six months Moody and Stanford worked at their jobs – often earning as little as $300 per week – money that was quickly used up to buy food, propane to heat their tents and gas for a friend who helped them with rides around town and to the local methadone clinic. Frasier didn’t work and would stay at the encampment to ensure their belongings wouldn’t get stolen, and she helped care for another homeless woman who frequently overdosed.
As winter set in the challenges for the friends added up. During one particularly harsh winter storm, the city paid for Stanford and Frasier to stay a few days at a local motel over Christmas. They eventually ended up going to stay with his mother in a nearby town for a few weeks. Moody went to sleep on the floor of a friend’s condo. The three have found temporary solutions to homelessness for now, but the
future remains uncertain.