After less than a year of operation, the Western Maine Homeless Outreach has housed 40 adults and 23 children who otherwise might have been forced to leave Franklin County to find a place to sleep, and 15 families have moved on from the shelter to housing of their own.

Shelter manager Emily Chaney said that while the paperwork was completed recently to register as a nonprofit, the group still lacks guaranteed government funding or grants and must rely on fundraising to keep the facility thriving.

As its first anniversary approaches, shelter staff members have organized an evening of dining and dancing this Saturday to raise money to meet operating costs.

The fundraising Dine & Dance under the Stars event will run from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, with a social hour and cash bar, dinner at 6 p.m. and dancing starting at 8 p.m. The dinner will take place at Titcomb Mountain on Ski Slope road in Farmington.

In its 10 months of operation, the shelter has provided a new local environment for homeless people who otherwise would have to journey to Waterville, Augusta or Lewiston for a place to stay. Before Western Maine opened, there were few options for families and individuals who found themselves homeless in Franklin County.

A few people were housed on an as-needed basis in the basement at the Living Waters Assembly of God Church on Wilton Road, but the overwhelming number of people in need were referred to out-of-county resources.

Community leaders began to meet last year to find a solution to the lack of resources for homelessness in Franklin County, and out of those meetings came the 16-bed evening shelter in the renovated Living Waters basement.

While shelter volunteers have bigger dreams — such as enough funding to operate 24 hours a day, or an eventual free-standing shelter — the staff is sticking to the task of raising money to cover daily expenses.

Chaney said the shelter engages with the guests to develop individual plans based on each family’s needs to help transition them into their own housing, which comes in different forms, such as an apartment, a mobile home or lodging with relatives.

“We’re able to really connect the families with resources,” she said.

Organizations that offer programming at the shelter have included groups such as the Children’s Task Force, Literacy Volunteers and the Healthy Community Coalition.

“We’ve had a lot of families that are coming back to us and telling us where they are at, and that has been great,” Chaney said.

The idea of a night of dinner and dancing came as staffers searched for a fundraising event that would have wide appeal.

“We tossed around a ton of ideas, and this was the idea that people got excited about,” Chaney said.

The food will be provided by Calzolaio Pasta Co. in Wilton, and the music will be by Jason Mancine & The Foothills Jazz Quartet.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 

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