The Wieden Hall Gym at the University of Maine at Presque Isle will serve as a temporary wellness shelter for individuals currently experiencing homelessness in Aroostook County thanks to a unique collaboration between Aroostook County Action Program, UMPI, Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency, City of Presque Isle, Maine State Housing Authority, and Homeless Services of Aroostook.
Prompted by the COVID-19 public health emergency, this new wellness shelter allows ACAP and the other organizations involved to address the emerging need for emergency temporary housing. The wellness shelter will provide services for up to 20 men and women who are not showing any signs of the virus.
“This entire process has been an overwhelmingly positive experience,” said Heidi Rackliffe, Program Coordinator and Hope & Prosperity Resource Director at ACAP. “We could not have asked for better partners to tackle this community need with. Our entire team jumped right in and within a matter of days, we are ready to meet the need. This is a true testament of how we do things in Aroostook County, with everyone putting their heads together and rolling up their sleeves to make life better in Aroostook County. Our team is committed to this important work and the community that we serve.”
Project organizers hope to have the wellness shelter available for those in need starting this week. The creation of the wellness shelter at UMPI’s Wieden Hall is part of a statewide effort by Maine’s public universities to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The University of Maine System has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Maine Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the use of its facilities, supplies, services, and even people all across the State to help however and whenever they are needed.
“Our goal across the University of Maine System has been to help in as many ways as we can, so our team at UMPI is working hard with a dedicated group of partners to help meet this urgent community need,” Ben Shaw, UMPI’s Chief Business Officer and UMPI lead on this project, said. “After the initial outreach from ACAP, and working closely with MEMA, Wieden Hall was identified as a suitable location because of its size and its bathrooms, showers, and other necessary amenities. It’s amazing how quickly things have been able to come together.”
Both ACAP and UMPI are working to ensure that a buffer is created between UMPI’s remaining on-campus students and the wellness shelter to best ensure the health and safety of all and limit exposure. The wellness shelter will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ACAP is working on a staffing plan for the shelter. ACEMA has supplied cots and ACAP is working with United Way of Aroostook and other community partners for supplies like bedding. UMPI will support cleaning of the facility and its food service provider Sodexo will provide meals, which will be transported by ACAP staff. UMPI is also setting up guest wifi, as well as a phone, TV, and laptops for shelter use.
Guest will be required to undergo regular health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, or respiratory congestion. The temporary shelter is expected to remain open as long as physical distancing requirements are in place or until the University is able to reopen to the public.
Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) is one of nearly 1,100 community action agencies across the country with the same promise to their community, to change lives, embody the spirit of hope, improve communities and make lives better. When COVID-19 spread throughout the State of Maine, partners throughout Aroostook County began planning for the future and redesigning service models to meet the needs in the community. As changes were made to protect not only individuals, but also the community as a whole, the homeless population was left with no options. The local shelter was full and hotel stays of unknown lengths were cost-prohibitive. After receiving multiple calls from clients with no place to go, ACAP turned to its community partners to find a solution.
The local homeless shelter shared that it is at full capacity and will continue to serve those that are at that facility. It will also continue to work with families that find themselves homeless as the wellness shelter in the Wieden Hall gym is designed for healthy individuals. ACAP will operate the wellness shelter with support from MaineHousing.
Because community members already have reached out asking how they can help, ACAP has created an Amazon Wishlist that includes products and materials needed for the shelter’s operations. To donate items, please visit https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/39L7JC0U5S9OM?ref_=wl_share.
For more information about this project, please contact Heidi Rackliffe at 207-554-4136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.