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Temporary overnight warming center opens in Ellsworth

"We have so many people right now with vouchers that cannot find an apartment or a house. We have individuals living in the woods in tents."

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Healthy Acadia, a nonprofit based in Hancock County, has opened a temporary overnight warming center in Ellsworth for anyone looking to escape the cold. 

The warming shelter is located at Healthy Acadia's INSPIRE Recovery Center at 24 Church St. in Ellsworth. It opened at the end of December and will remain open every day, including holidays, through April 30. It's open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night.

Paige Johnston, the program director, said a number of organizations in Hancock and Washington counties came together to make this warming center possible. Johnston said they realized the urgent need for those experiencing homelessness to have a warm place to stay at night during these cold winter months.

Every night the center also offers a warm meal to its guests at 7:30 p.m.

Billie Jo Warren, co-manager of the warming center, said she hears firsthand about the daily struggles to find housing in the Ellsworth area. She said many people tell her even if they receive vouchers for housing, there is a lack of places willing to accept them. 

"We have so many people right now with vouchers that cannot find an apartment or a house. We have individuals living in the woods in tents," Warren said. 

"Some were living on emergency funding that was, you know, not going to last forever, staying in hotels," Johnston said. 

The warming shelter has a limit of allowing 20 people to stay per night. It also has private rooms for families or other situations that may warrant separation. 

Johnston added the warming center wouldn't have been possible without the generous support from community members and groups. She said one woman donated mats and blankets to the shelter that otherwise would have cost them several thousand dollars. Others have donated the warm meals offered each night, clothing, snacks, shoes, and even money to purchase shower cards for use at the YMCA. 

"We're always looking for donations for the backpack room. We give backpacks out to people who are unhoused and need them [and] to people that are just leaving incarceration or treatment facilities. A lot of times people just don't have the basic supplies that they need like clean, seasonally appropriate clothing, basic hygiene items, things like that," Johnston said. 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can donate to or support the center, you can reach out to Healthy Acadia on Facebook, or click here

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