Harry Madson is one of the Bangor Homeless Shelter’s relatively new volunteers and has been working with the BHS for roughly two years. He is a retired Air Force veteran, who was a commander during the last 10 years of his service. Inspired by his former commander, Harry enrolled in Boston University’s Master’s in Counseling program while in Germany, claiming it is the “best thing he could have ever done.” Harry in no stranger to service work, as when he left military service, he “wanted to work in the nonprofit world, so I worked for Project Atrium, I worked for Wings, I worked for United Way of Eastern Maine, I worked for the Muskie Institute, so I’ve been involved with the nonprofit world for quite a while.” Beginning with his work with Project Atrium, an organization seeking to provide shelter and resources to children with substance and mental health issues, Harry worked closely with the Bangor Homeless Shelter’s previous director, Dennis Marble. Harry and his wife are residents of Maine, and both strive to use the time that they have to connect with and personally reach out to members of the homeless population in the greater Bangor area.
As a volunteer of the Bangor Homeless Shelter, you can find Harry warming meals to serve to the folks of Bangor, chatting with strangers and friends, and offering a listening ear to whoever may need it. As Harry describes the best part of volunteering at Bangor Homeless, and any non-profit, is the personal connections made. He speaks highly of his volunteers and the community members that he helps, saying “My wife and I, we have a lot to share…it’s needed, and it’s great fun.” To any community members who are considering volunteering at the Bangor Homeless Shelter, Harry shares these words: “Try it, try it, try it.” When asked about his connection to Maine and to the community, Harry closed our interview with the perfect sentiment, sharing that “Maine is a good community. You may not be the best friends, but it’s a place where if you need help, neighbors are there to help you. Without Question.”
Jessica Hall is a recent addition to the Bangor Homeless Volunteer Program, who held her first event with Bangor Homeless October of this year. Jessica is a Maine resident who owns a hair salon in Belfast and has been working with the Bangor Homeless Shelter to provide free haircuts to those at the shelter. Jessica has been a salon owned for over two and a half years, and since opening her salon has made it a priority to give back to her community. In fact, in speaking about her business, Jessica mentions that “as a business owner, I am trying to take this opportunity and find ways to be able to give back.” Having begun giving free haircuts locally, it is Jessica’s mission to provide salon services to those who are not able to receive them.
In the future, Jessica is looking to hold more free haircut events at Bangor Homeless, one of which she hopes to be before Christmas time and will also be hosting other events locally in Belfast. For Jessica, the importance of feeling good and having access to a haircut is essential, saying that it’s, “a really dignifying thing to be feeling like you’re taking care of yourself and have that, and so when that’s stripped away from people, I think that that’s obviously so hard.” Jessica is even hoping to create a statewide program surrounding haircut events like the ones she has already held to make her services consistent and streamlined. She describes that “when you’re consistent, it gives people something they can count on, so it’s important.”
Sarah McCarthy joined the Bangor Homeless Shelter 7 Years ago. She wanted to be more of a service to her community outside of her work where she didn’t want it to be connected. Sarah enjoys helping out in the kitchen, preparing meals throughout the week, and serving them to the shelter’s guests. Sarah said it’s important to provide shelter to the homeless. She wants the guests of the shelter to feel comfort and security. Sarah said it is a great way to give back and feels nice to support those who are struggling and ease stress and discomfort. Sarah was asked what society can do to help the homeless more and she said having more affordable housing.
Nicky Ouellet Joined the Bangor Homeless Shelter a couple of months ago in the spring of 2023, she attended the Bangor Pride Parade where there was a booth and asked about volunteer opportunities. Nicky when she was younger would help package up boxes for food donations with her parents to be more involved with the community. Nicky helps with getting donations to the shelter and often helps out cooking dinners. Nicky said it is important that everyone has a warm place to stay, and that food is provided. Nicky was asked what our society could do more to help homeless people and her response was to restructure the tax code for more affordable options for those who are trying their hardest to get back on their feet. Nicky also mentioned policies that support living wages.
Hannah Pham joined the Bangor Homeless Shelter in 2018. Hannah was previously involved in the Portland Homeless Shelter. When she moved to Bangor she wanted to stay involved and would branch off into a couple of activities. Hannah helped out with food drives and clothing donations. Hannah adopted a room at the shelter where she fixed up and decorated the room, she spent two days doing so making it feel homey and comfortable for the guests. Hannah was a Pharmacy student when she was in Portland and would often help guests by taking their blood pressure and checking their diabetes. Hannah also helped out a lot by asking surrounding businesses to donate to the shelter where she made enough to donate and split it three ways to other shelters. Hannah was asked why it is important to provide shelter to the homeless and she said there are resources they need, they never wanted to be homeless, they were in a rough place and couldn’t keep up, and having such cold winters takes a toll on people financially. Hannah said the biggest part of getting people to reach out is to break the stigma that the homeless are a nuisance or a drain on society that prevents people from reaching out but to help those change their minds. Hannah said it’s as simple as donating meals to the shelter or old clothes that aren’t getting used to accommodate those who don’t have the proper clothes and old blankets. Hannah also mentioned the causes of homelessness are the economic rates of food and housing that many can’t afford and that’s their last option. Hannah sees the Bangor Homeless Shelter as a safe place for those who need it or access to more resources to help them look for jobs, provide professional clothes for interviews, and access to public transportation.