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Helping Mainers Get Back on their Feet: A Look Inside the Emmaus Homeless Shelter 

Imagine being a parent, losing your job, not having enough money to pay the bills, and being out of a home.Now imagine trying to find a homeless shelter to take you and your family in, but you can’t, because very few exist. We take you inside the Emmaus Homeless Shelter in Ellsworth, one that welcomes families and individuals.In 1992, the Emmaus Homeless Shelter opened its doors in Ellsworth.”It was difficult in the beginning to be accepted, by some, but I think we’ve proven our worth,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald, Director of the Emmaus Homeless Shelter. The shelter has helped countless individuals and families get back on their feet.”They’re homeless and what their goal is, is to get out of homelessness and get some value back into their life,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald.One thing that sets Emmaus apart from most other shelters in Maine is that it takes in families.”It’s a wonderful combination of having the families and the single individuals here. It brings something very special out of people,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald.Scott Young, Christina Glidden and their six-month-old son, Scott, have called Emmaus home for more than a month now.”I lost my job in October and we were trying to keep up on our rent with just state aid that we got and our state aid was less than our rent so we fell behind and within three months we had our phones and the lights turned off and we were evicted,” said Scott Young.If the family had stayed in the Bangor area, they’d have to go their separate ways, because no shelters in the area allow families.”We would’ve had to split up and just one of us go to a shelter and the other one stay with family or something. So we’re lucky to find the Emmaus Shelter where we could stay together as a family,” said Young.Emmaus can take in four families, six women and five men at a time. It’s never easy to tell someone they’re full.”It’s probably one of the hardest things, in this type of work, is to tell somebody who are in tears that there’s not room for them,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald.”The minute someone leaves, the bed is cleaned and the next person gets that phone call and it’s filled immediately,” continued MacDonald.Another unique aspect of Emmaus is, those who stay there don’t need to leave during the day– something that’s vital during the frigid Maine winters.”We would’ve been spending all day in the mall or something just trying to stay warm,” said Young.”We do demand that they go out and look for jobs. If they’re capable of working and have no limitations to prevent that,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald.The folks at Emmaus make sure those staying at the shelter eat as a family and take turns cooking dinner for everyone. They have to shovel snow and keep the place tidy.”I tell them, this is their home and they need to treat it as so,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald.”You come here and it’s nice to see that everyone’s kind of in it together,” said Young.The goal is to get families and individuals permanent housing and for many, that’s exactly what happens.”Some people it’s just turned their life right around. Some people have been homeless, chronical homeless, for many years and finally they’re able to get their own place, and you know, we have repeaters, people don’t make it,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald. For Scott, Christina and their young son, the Emmaus Shelter has made all the difference and kept this family off the streets.”It’s not shameful to ask for help if you need it. It’s better than your family being on the side of the road in some really bad predicament,” said Young.”It’s been a great gift to me to be able to be here and to be able to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Sister Lucille MacDonald. It’s important to note there are other shelters in the state that take in families, but not many.If you or your family need help finding a shelter, you can dial 211 for assistance.