The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund, speaking on the urgency of shelter for people who are homeless and to ask the Town Council to move swiftly to end the moratorium on the Tedford Housing expansion proposal.
Good evening. My name is Carolyn Eklund. I live at 43 Spring Street in Brunswick. I serve as the rector, the pastor of St. Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s is located in the heart of Brunswick. At the corner of Pleasant and Union streets, our doors are accessible to the public during office hours and times of worship. We are one of the first stops into town that people who are in distress make for resources.
This evening I will be giving a faith-based presentation. I’d like to begin by sharing my first impressions of Brunswick from five years ago. They haven’t changed in five years. Five years ago, on my first night in Brunswick, when I came for my interview with the St. Paul’s leadership, I walked across the Green and down Everett Street. At the end of Everett Street,
I encountered a man sitting on the seat of a swing in the backyard of a home that was adjacent to the Maine State Music Theater building. This man was holding a beer in his hand. He smiled at me, introduced himself and said, “I live at Tedford.” I assumed that “Tedford” might be a shelter close by.
The man had had too much beer to drink. And that made him extra friendly. He then introduced me to the man whose yard he was in and the three of us chatted about the changes that were happening in Maine Care. I was glad to hear from these two men a little about Maine.
I then walked down the street to the Rite Aid and saw on the shelves behind the cashier, row after row of the little bottles of hard liquor. I was familiar with those easy-to-purchase bottles that give a quick blood level of alcohol. I surmised that, like the community I had just come from in New Jersey, there might be an “alcohol problem” in Brunswick.
Then, I discovered in my interview the next evening with the leadership of St. Paul’s that the congregation indeed supported Tedford Housing. I also discovered that this parish offered one or two twelve-step sobriety meetings a day and there was a trusted relationship with these groups as indicated in the words of one of the leaders, “They even have their own key.”
I was impressed with a congregation so compassionate and committed to serving the needs of their surrounding neighborhood. I assumed and am right that St. Paul’s reflects the compassion and care of greater Brunswick to this day. I was thrilled when they called me here to serve in Brunswick.
I have attended two of the Task Force deliberation public meetings. Members of my congregation have been present, too. I want to thank the Task Force for serving the common good of Brunswick as you’ve spent time learning the definitions of density and neighborhoods. Thank you for taking on the responsibility to hear all sides of the Tedford Housing expansion proposal.
I just hope the Town Council doesn’t lose sight of the human beings who are our neighbors and who struggle to make their lives stable. I worry that so very few of our neighbors who are homeless have come to speak at these public hearings; to share their stories with the Task Force and the Town Council. I believe the voice of those who are homeless is a critical voice. For example, the voice of the man who had a beer in his hand my first evening would be an important voice among many voices of people who are homeless.
Once, a friend of mine said to me, “Carolyn, you would not believe how many people are just one paycheck away from being homeless. That’s why I serve to alleviate homelessness.” One of the most insidious dismantlings of a person’s humanity is the condition of homelessness. That’s why I work to alleviate homelessness.
I ask the Town Council to move swiftly, wisely and compassionately to reduce the moratorium time because the condition of homelessness is urgent. Thank you all.