Midcoast Community Alliance Teams with Merrymeeting Project to Support Homeless Youth in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick & Harpswell

August 9, 2019
For more information:
Jamie Dorr, Midcoast Community Alliance: 443-6856
Donna Verhoeven, Merrymeeting Project 751-5738

Midcoast Community Alliance Teams with Merrymeeting Project
to Support Homeless Youth in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick & Harpswell

**Sponsorships and Funding Sought**

BATH—Midcoast Community Alliance is pleased to announce a major expansion to its core offerings that will provide support to homeless youth in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick & Harpswell. Merrymeeting Project has provided critical services to homeless school-age children and youth since 1995, and most recently operated under the umbrella of Tedford Housing. Recent funding changes put the program in jeopardy.

“It was just a natural fit for Midcoast Community Alliance to host this extremely important service,” said MCA founder Jamie Dorr. “Bringing this organization—whose sole purpose is serving area youth in need—into the fold of MCA makes sense in every way.” Midcoast Community Alliance has developed over the last three years into a fast-growing anchor point for many families in the greater Sagadahoc County area. Its core mission is to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges, and to eliminate youth suicide.

Merrymeeting Project’s Donna Verhoeven has been the organization’s long-time Youth Outreach Coordinator, where she works directly with homeless youth, assisting with access to everything from shelter, food, clothing and medical and mental health care. “These kids get through the day at school, for the most part, and then, what happens after school?” she said. “What happens after school is so critical. Where is their support?” Verhoeven has been a steadfast advocate for youth and their federally protected rights under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and said she “could hardly imagine a better partner than MCA.”

The RSU 1 school district has been working with Verhoeven for years through the Merrymeeting Project and “is ecstatic that this relationship can now continue through the great work of MCA so our students can continue to benefit from her hard work and supports,” said Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph.

“Over the past twenty years in MSAD75, Donna has helped unaccompanied homeless students find safe places to live, do laundry, and navigate the legal system,” says Mary Booth, District Health Coordinator & Homeless Liaison
for MSAD75. “She has helped homeless families with young children living in cars or tents find safe places to live and fill out applications for supportive programs they were not aware existed. Ultimately, the outcome of this work is a stability that results in improved school attendance and graduation rates. The challenges facing these students and their families are vast and complex and schools can only do a fraction of what is needed to help.”

Funding is critical to the program operating at its best, and while there may be some future grant opportunities, Verhoeven says additional funds are needed. “Grant money typically only covers certain things — but it doesn’t cover things like helping a student get their driver’s license, or cell phone cards, or paying for legal documents. There is never really ‘enough’ money.”

Empowering youth through engagement in the community (choral lessons, driver’s ed, etc.), which helps them thrive in school and—just as importantly—beyond school, provides a sense of belonging within the community. This all works to strengthen stability.

Verhoeven and Dorr are seeking community sponsorships, with an eye on three-year commitments to assist in budgeting and planning. They have already raised $20,000 in three commitments.

One of the many positives to Verhoeven joining forces with MCA is that she will be on site, daily, at MCA’s headquarters, the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, which will allow MCA to expand their hours of availability to area youth. Right now, the space is closed on Sundays and Mondays. In the past eight months, the Skatepark has served 291 youth, ages 10-20. Among those, some are struggling with issues at home or at school, and while receiving help and guidance at MCA, they are also learning coping skills and even becoming “leaders” for other students. The transition of the Skatepark into a true community center for youth is clearly visible.

Those interested in sponsorships may contact either Dorr (443-6856) or Verhoeven (751-5738) directly.