4 mobile veteran homeless shelters ready for deployment

Tue, 10/27/2020 - 2:00pm

Last year, three Boothbay region veterans wanted to assist homeless vets across the state. The trio developed a plan which provided temporary shelter for veterans awaiting state and federal approval for housing. Ed Harmon, Arthur Richardson and John Hargreaves were concerned Maine veterans remained “on homeless during the two to 14 days it took for government assistance. So the trio came up with an idea to provide a temporary solution for a longstanding problem.

They built a mobile mini-shelter equipped with a bed, eating table, work counter, microwave oven, mini refrigerator, chair, night stand, lights and a heater. They also created a name for their endeavor, Boothbay VETS, Inc. (Veterans Emergency Temporary Shelter). The mini-shelter’s purpose was to show state and federal officials how temporary housing would benefit homeless veterans awaiting assistance.

Now Boothbay VETS, Inc. has four more mini-shelters ready for statewide deployment. “The Bangor VFW requested one. The Topsham American Legion wants one, too,” said Harmon, Boothbay VETS Inc.’s president. “But we can’t place them because we are still waiting for our 501(c)3. We can’t get insurance without it.”

Boothbay VETS paid $300 earlier this year to Maine  Revenue Services to expedite the tax-exempt status. Boothbay VETS received confirmation its paperwork was received and expected its tax-exempt status by Sep. 29, but the coronavirus delayed the effort. Harmon explained the tax-exempt status requires state and federal approval. Boothbay VETS has contacted the state’s congressional delegation in an attempt to receive the official approval. “We’ve done the paperwork, but we’re waiting for our number. Donors need it for tax purposes, and we need it to get insurance. They can’t be used without insurance,” Harmon said. 

Recently, Boothbay VETS, Inc. contacted U.S. Congressmen Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King. “It won’t be long. I had conversations with their staffs who assure me, they are on it,” Harmon said. 

As fall becomes winter, the four mini-shelters will be good news for homeless Maine veterans who number as many as 13 per night, according to Harmon. 

Harmon built the first mini-shelter out of a trailer he bought in Georgia. Once Boothbay VETS, Inc. began showing its prototype, donations started pouring in from Hancock Lumber, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ames Supply in Wiscasset, Seacoast Lumber in Sanford, Grover’s Hardware in Boothbay Harbor, J.C. Marsh Signs in Boothbay, and Minutemen Signs in Augusta. One Boothbay region donor contributed $10,000. “They all contributed to this project and we donated the labor at no cost,” Richardson said. 

Boothbay VETS tested its mini-shelter last winter at Lost Valley in Auburn. “We tested the heating system at 10 F below zero. We put the heat on, and in less than an hour it was 70F,” Harmon said.

Boothbay VETS,  Inc. set a goal last year of constructing 15 mini-shelters for Maine.