ORLAND, MAINE — Every night, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than a half-million men, women and children across the United States search for shelter because they have no place to call home.
There are few places — rich or poor, urban or rural — that don't face this problem. But in some communities, people are actively doing something about it.
For more than 35 years, a grassroots charitable organization known as Homeworkers Organized for More Employment, or H.O.M.E., located in Orland, has been helping combat poverty and homelessness in its rural community by offering support services and constructing affordable housing.
Sister Lucy Poulin, one of a group of women who founded the charity, said that while Orland is a lovely place with many beautiful homes, her group serves people in the community who are not able to live so extravagantly. Volunteers from throughout the Northeast come to this corner of Maine, about 40 miles south of Bar Harbor, to help H. O. M. E. build its houses, which are sold to low-income individuals who otherwise could not afford to buy a home, Poulin said.
To date, about 100 people, many of them families, live in 57 single-family residences built by H. O. M. E. On any given night, another 100 people may be temporarily staying in shelters on H.O.M.E's 13-acre campus.
H.O.M.E. manufactures its own lumber and roofing shingles and relies on building material donations such as the recent contribution of plumbing tube and fittings from the Copper Development Association to offset expenses.
"H.O.M.E. is very grateful for these donations," Poulin said. "The only way people without enough income are ever going to have a home of their own is if all of us help."
Bob Hardina is a plumber and an ordained pastor who has volunteered at H.O.M.E. one day a week for the last three years. In 1976, he purchased a contracting company that became Mid Coast Energy Systems, a privately owned plumbing, heating and electrical contracting firm in Damariscotta, Maine, which is about 60 miles from Orland. Hardina has sold the company to three of his employees, but he still is employed there as the estimator.
The new copper plumbing has been installed in several buildings on the H.O.M.E. campus, including apartments that serve as transitional housing for the homeless, as well a soup kitchen, pottery shop, and was used to revamp the heating system in the learning center, Hardina said.
The copper piping will also be used to plumb six new houses that H.O.M.E. is constructing in Dedham, which is about 15 miles from Orland. Two of the homes are finished and four are still under construction, Hardina told CONTRACTOR.
Paul Anderson, former senior vice president of CDA, initiated CDA's relationship with H.O.M.E. several years ago. Anderson is a member of the First Congressional Church in Ridgefield, Conn., which organizes an ecumenical youth group trip to Maine each summer to help with construction projects at H.O.M.E.
The Ridgefield church group is the largest to volunteer at H.O.M.E., organizer Dan Reidy said. In July, about 120 high school and college students from the Ridgefield area traveled to the H.O.M.E. campus for a week — sleeping in tents at night and helping to frame houses in Dedham and repair buildings on the H.O.M.E. campus during the day.
Before Anderson's retirement from CDA, there were three separate occasions when CDA donated copper piping to H.O.M.E. This year's donation came about when Anderson got word of a shortage of plumbing needed for the completion and rehabilitation of many homes. Anderson approached CDA, which pledged a donation for a fourth time.
"The Copper Development Association is proud to do its part by donating piping materials to this very worthwhile charity," said Andy Kireta Jr., CDA national program manager for building construction. "The people who purchase these homes will be well served by the quality and performance their copper plumbing systems for many years to come."
Originally founded as a way to provide employment and training to area residents in crafts such as weaving, woodworking and pottery, H.O.M.E. continues to manufacture craft items, which are sold to the public at a retail store on its premises. The sale of these items, along with charitable donations, help the nonprofit organization continue to offer its services to the local community.