Elijah Yeaton, 30, sits Friday on the steps of the former Waterville Boys and Girls Club on Main Place, waiting for a nearby soup kitchen to open for breakfast. He was homeless until recently. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

If you want to know how the other side lives, you might take a stroll over to the former Waterville Boys and Girls Club on Main Place in Waterville.

On any given day, around 9 a.m., there are a dozen or more homeless people who hang out there, waiting for the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen to open so they can get their first meal of the day.

I was hot and humid Friday despite the early hour, but it was cooler on the concrete steps of the rundown former club, which has broken windows and debris scattered about. Shaded by a large tree, the people sat or stood, milled around and talked about their lives.

At least one man, Elijah Yeaton, said he was lucky enough a few weeks ago to find an apartment on Front Place, which he shares with his wife, her sister and her sister’s husband and dog. A woman who didn’t want the apartment anymore signed it over to Yeaton, 30, and his family, he said.

“Before that we were on the streets for a while. There was a period of time where it was anywhere from three to four months on the streets, and around that time I was in and out of the homeless shelter.”

A friendly and talkative sort, Yeaton said he became homeless after living in Milo where he was staying with friends.


“I had gotten two jobs. One was working as a logger and the other one was being a roofer, shingling roofs and whatnot. I had all that going for me and they decided I wasn’t going to be a good fit for them and I became homeless last year.”

Yeaton’s wife, Morgan Kenney, 25, works as a flagger on road construction sites, he said. He is trying get a job doing that as well. They hope to have kids one day, he said.

A four-bedroom house just came up for rent on Main Street and he and his family are trying to get it.

“It’s absolutely hard to find a place — it’s ridiculous,” he said. “The rent money is more than what you’re getting in Social Security, if you’re on Social Security.”

As he spoke, others chimed in. Amanda Frasier, 36, whom I interviewed last year when she was living in the woods by the Kennebec River off Water Street, said she is still living in a tent, though not in the same place.

She estimated 150 people live outdoors in various places around the city, including off First Rangeway, Cool Street, Waterville Commons Drive and along the Kennebec River off Front Street.


“One person’s income, I’m sorry, but there’s no way you can rent an efficiency right now,” she said. “They are $180 a week down on Water Street.”

James Hawkins, 44, has been living in his car since April after the apartment he was in had bedbugs and he left, he said.

“I just got out of the hospital for the second time,” Hawkins said. “The first time, I had pneumonia. I’m a Type 1 diabetic. I have a rare immune deficiency and end-stage kidney failure. The second time I was in the hospital, my blood sugar shot up over 1,400.”

The group thinned out as some of the people headed to the soup kitchen for breakfast.

I asked Yeaton where he came from and how he wound up in Waterville.

“I grew up in Phippsburg, near Popham Beach,” he said. “There were nine of us. I had seven sisters and one brother and I was second youngest. It was kind of hectic. There was a lot of getting up at 4:30 in the morning and going out to haul the lobster traps. My father did it for a living.”

He graduated from Morse High School in Bath and then headed north, he said. He tried to settle down but it was difficult because the people he was with took advantage of him and it cost him the roof over his head.

“But that’s the past,” he said. “This is now. I told myself back then that in 2023 I’d be on my feet. Here it is and I’m back up on my feet.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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