Boothbay barbecue will combat veterans’ homelessness

Tue, 08/17/2021 - 1:30pm
On Aug. 21, VETS (Veterans Emergency Temporary Shelter) will hold a barbecue promoting homeless veterans awareness  at the Boothbay American Legion Hall in Boothbay. Three local veterans founded VETS over a year ago as a way to combat the growing problem of Maine homeless veterans. In the past year, VETS has built nine temporary shelters, deployed four around the state, and in the process of building eight more.
When Ed Harmon along with fellow Vietnam veterans Arthur Richardson and John Hargreaves began VETS they hoped to show how a temporary shelter was a practical way meeting homeless veterans’ short-term needs. Instead their vision morphed into an action plan. VETS has created a network of sponsors which has joined them in constructing mini-temporary shelter vans and promoting veterans homeless awareness.
According to Harmon, the barbecue  has two purposes. One is creating more awareness about veterans homelessness. In 2019, Harmon discovered that as many as 15 Maine veterans were homeless on any given night.
The other is for celebrating efforts of all of those who have participated in the organization’s success over the past year. Harmon expects the barbecue will draw nearly 600 people to the Industrial Park. The event is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. with a menu of pulled pork, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chili dogs, cole slaw, and fresh frozen fruit cups.
“We were at the veterans’ hospital in Togus last week, and they had flyers all over for the barbecue. Harmon is still finalizing all of the activities. “There is a lot of excitement about what we’re doing statewide, and it’s going to be a great time,” he said. “The phone keeps ringing with people wanting to donate,” he said. “Locally and statewide, everybody has been generous. We are a great community and great state. Everybody wants to participate in this.” 

The three hour event also has plenty of entertainment. The local legion auxiliary is planning field games for children such as cornhole. A 17-piece jazz ensemble with members from across Maine will also perform. There are also several raffles scheduled. One drawing is for a donated quilt made by Sara Fahnley.

The project’s initial goal was temporary assistance, but due to the pandemic, shelters have provided longer terms for needy veterans. Harmon recalled two married veterans who lost their housing due to their landlord’s failure to abide by housing codes. The couple struggled to find new housing due to the pandemic before seeking help from VETS. The couple spent five months in one of the VETS mobile shelters.  “Through no fault of their own they lost their housing. During that time, they saved enough money to first, last and security deposit in a new apartment. ”