BOOTHBAY, Maine — Ed Harmon may be more comfortable in a workshop than a commercial kitchen, but there he was Tuesday morning, cooking big pieces of pork at the American Legion Hall.
“300 pounds of pork,” he said.
Just part of the menu for a big barbeque Saturday to raise money for Boothbay V.E.T.S., the project Harmon and two other local men started less than two years ago as a way to elp homeless veterans.
Veterans Emergency Temporary Shelter is their creation, a cargo trailer that has been insulated, wired, and customized inside as a mobile shelter for homeless veterans.
Harmon and the rest of his team are nearly finished with the ninth trailer. All the work has been done for free, and all the materials and money have been donated. He said the idea of the project has caught on, and donations have started to come more quickly.
“I don’t have 10 words out of my mouth and people know about our project and are willing to participate.”
Jared Greeley, Maine’s homeless veterans' coordinator, helps to deploy the shelters where needed and has become a big booster of the project.
“To be honest, they’ve worked out much better than I thought (they would),” he said.
Greeley said some have been used by veteran groups but others have been placed on private land to take care of a particular veteran’s needs.
“Every veteran I’ve placed in these trailers has been grateful this was an option for them. Because it goes without saying some of these veterans are individuals who aren’t a good fit for a shelter to be around a lot of people. Having this as Plan B has been a good fit for them.”
The concept for the shelters stressed temporary, and Harmon said the idea was the trailer would be an emergency shelter to get a homeless veteran off the street or out of the woods for a few days or weeks until more permanent shelter could be lined up.
Greeley said because of the pandemic there has been a drastic shortage of available, affordable housing, at the same time there has been an increase in homelessness. As a result, some veterans have had to stay in the trailers far longer than planned—up to nine months in at least one case.
Harmon said they have had to adapt.
“It's supposed to only be for two weeks but because of the health thing going on you’ve got to bend (some) rules. Our mission is to help veterans and that’s what we’re doing.”
Saturday’s fundraiser is planned as a thank you, a chance for people to see the shelter trailers up close, and a way to encourage more people to donate. V.E.T.S. has four more trailers due to arrive shortly, and has just ordered eight others from a Maine manufacturer, who is providing a significant discount, Harmon said. But with the need appearing to increase, they want to be able to do more to meet that ned, and that will require more financial support.
Harmon said there will be lots of barbeque food, games for kids, a large jazz band, a V.E.T.S. shelter to tour examine and other activities, all donated, all to raise more money to help more homeless vets.
The event starts at 4:00 PM Saturday at the Boothbay American Legion Post, the same place the prototype of the mobile shelter was introduced in January 2020.