LEWISTON — Five months ago, Tanya Caron was unemployed and homeless, spending her nights at Hope Haven Gospel Mission.
Today, she has an apartment and works delivering Sun Journal newspapers seven days a week.
Delivering papers doesn’t pay a lot, about a $1 per house per week plus tips. “But it’s a start,” Caron said. Her bosses praise her work ethic and attitude. “It’s a seven-day commitment,” Circulation Manager Mike Theriault said. “That coupled with the early mornings, it’s not easy.”
Route Supervisor Stephen Smith said Caron is “doing an awesome job. She has 210 customers and gives great service to them all.” Not many people could do five routes without a car, he said.
Caron, 30, grew up in Lewiston. She attended Lewiston schools and got her high school diploma through Lewiston Adult Education. Three years ago she and her boyfriend lost their jobs at a local manufacturing company. They collected unemployment until it ran out.
With no money for rent, “we were evicted in March,” Caron said. “We would end up at Hope Haven for four months.”
Becoming homeless meant giving up their three dogs.
“Two of them have great homes,” Caron said. “The third one had to be put down. He had cancer. I had him for eight years,” she said, trying to hold back tears. The tears came anyway. Giving up their dogs was one of the toughest parts of becoming homeless, she said.
At Hope Haven they looked for work and noticed an ad for newspaper delivery.
At first they were told only routes for those with cars were available. In March, Smith gave her one route in New Auburn. “He said if everything went well I could have more,” Caron said.
Two weeks later she got another route. Two weeks after that, another. In July she, her boyfriend and friend were delivering four routes in New Auburn. Recently they started a fifth in the Barker Mill area.
“It’s all of New Auburn and most of it’s uphill,” Caron said with a laugh. “We’ve got Lauren Avenue, Ninth Street, Tenth Street, Short Street, Eighth, Seventh, Sixth, Fifth, Fourth, Third and Second.”
They get out of bed at 1 a.m., leave their Shawmut Street home by 1:45 a.m. and walk to New Auburn, reaching their bundles by 2:30 a.m. They then spend a half-hour putting newspapers in individual plastic bags.
“We do it every day; this way we’re not caught in the middle of a rainstorm,” Caron said. An unexpected storm can get her papers wet. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
They deliver from 3 to 5:30 a.m. “All that walking is the hardest part, then walking home,” she said.
Then there are Sundays.
The bundles are light on weekdays, she can fit 30 to 50 papers in a bag. Sunday papers are thick and heavy. “You can only put 15 papers in a bag.” Her team uses wagons and carts to carry papers, along with bags.
When the routes are done, Caron walks back to Lewiston and sleeps until the early afternoon. She goes to bed each night around 9.
She got an apartment when, while staying at Hope Haven, someone recommended she seek help from Common Ties. “I have a learning disability,” Caron said. She discovered she qualified. “They gave me a shelter plus care voucher.” Thirty percent of her income goes toward her rent, the rest is subsidized.
She and her boyfriend moved into their apartment in June. Moving-in day was happy, exciting, “a relief,” Caron said.
She’s grateful for the help, but glad to no longer be bound by Hope Haven’s rules that dictate times for lights out, wake up and meals.
“And I’m not lugging everything with me. Anything of value, you have to bring it with you,” which meant carrying items in her backpack all day. “Now I can get dressed and go. It makes it easier for me to have this job.”
Life is better these days, Caron said.
After being out of work for so long, it’s good to be employed, she said.
“I’m a social butterfly. Working was my source of communication with everybody.” Without that “I was starting to get depressed.”
Now she has a little money and a place to spend time with her daughter, who lives with her mother.
Caron’s advice to others who may find themselves in a bad spot is “keep your head high. Don’t be afraid to go and see the places that can help. You never know, you may qualify for help.”
And, Caron added, “take it one day at a time. Know that sooner or later you’ve got to go back up.”