PARKMAN, Maine — A proposed homeless shelter in Piscataquis County is in jeopardy of not getting off the ground if it doesn’t raise $10,000, and fast.
The Rev. John Weeks, who goes by Pastor Jack, hopes to operate Holy Spirit Missions Church and Shelter with his wife, Linda. The two arranged to buy the former McKusick Elementary School along Route 150 in Parkman about three months ago. The shelter would be geared toward helping homeless families, he said.
However, an Aug. 1 deadline to come up with $20,000 as a down payment on the building has come and gone. Prospective buyers have toured the former school and the building could be sold to someone else before Weeks is able to get the shelter operational.
“It’s been pretty quiet so far,” said Weeks, referring to donations coming to the church and shelter. “Most people just don’t know we’re here yet. I don’t make enough noise, I guess.”
Weeks said he has set up tables at community events and held a yard sale at the shelter last week, but rain dampened the fundraising effort.
“The weather was against us,” he said. “We held it inside. When you get it inside, it’s off the road and people don’t stop in.”
Because of the money shortfall, Weeks said he’s been unable to shelter some homeless families who need help.
“We’re turning people away weekly,” said Weeks. “We had a woman and four kids [come to us], and we can’t help them yet. It’s breaking our hearts turning people away.”
Weeks said area churches and Dover-Foxcroft’s Womancare, a support and advocacy group for people affected by domestic abuse, have been generous to the fundraising effort, but he needs more financial help.
He said he thought stereotypes against the homeless might be contributing to the lack of fundraising support.
“People picture a drunk holding a bag [when thinking of a homeless person],” said Weeks. “It’s women and children we’re trying to help. They’re not picturing women and children that don’t have a husband that are homeless.”
The Parkman shelter could hold 33 families or 60 people, he said. It could hold up to 100 people if needed.
“The building is perfect,” said Weeks. The former school also is already fitted with a sprinkler system.
Weeks said he’s not going to give up, even with the prospect that, any day, the building could be sold to someone else.
“I’ve been at this long enough that I’m not going to give up,” said Weeks, who added that he would look at other buildings to house the shelter if he had to.
Weeks previously helped start a men’s shelter in Skowhegan, and then a women’s shelter in Solon. He said he left both shelters in order to focus on the family shelter in Parkman.
“We need the help of the public. We’re a small church. We can’t do it alone,” he said.