Arthur Murray, left and Christopher Larochelle find shelter from the rain and snow last month in the foyer of a business on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Murray “couch surfs” with friends most nights while Christopher Larochelle, right, moves from town to town. “I have a place I built in Poland, but there are people squatting there that are worse off than me so I’m just working wherever I can and doing what I can to get by” he said with a smile. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“There was ice forming on the inside of our tent and when it would snow, we’d have to sleep in shifts so we could go out and shovel snow off the tent, so it wouldn’t collapse on us.”

Those words come from a 30-year-old homeless woman in Lewiston, who’s been living in a tent and on the streets for four years. She’s among thousands of homeless people in Maine who need shelter as the harsh winter months get underway. Federal estimates earlier this year recorded the highest number ever of homeless people in the state — 3,455 — even as officials acknowledge the numbers are underreported and escalating costs are increasing the number of vulnerable Mainers.

Starting Sunday, the Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel begin examining the causes, impacts and solutions to homelessness in Maine with an occasional series over the winter months. In this first installment, we look at how homelessness is visible in our central Maine communities amid the rising number of people without a stable home.

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