“BRUNSWICK — When the Brunswick High School’s athletic director called saying a homeless student needed a pair of basketball sneakers in order to play on the team, Erin Mangalam and the five other mothers who make up The Emergency Action Network sprang into action, broadcasting the need to hundreds of allies. Within 24 hours, the student had not just one pair of shoes, but several.
This is what TEAN does every time there is a need for a homeless student. There is no paperwork involved, and they never learn the child’s name. They just reach out to their network and get the job done.
With 70 homeless students in Brunswick, “there’s a big need,” Mangalam said. “Sometimes it’s hard to see that.”
In the two years since TEAN has been operational, Mangalam and her fellow organizers have only seen that need increase, whether due to a lack of affordable housing in the area or because of emergency. As the need has increased, so has the network of what she calls allies — community members ready to help when they are called. Currently, there are about 850, she said.”
“In addition to the water from Topsham, a nonprofit community group in Brunswick called The Emergency Action Network has been collecting bottled water to donate to Bay Bridge residents since the beginning of this week. On Wednesday, Poland Spring learned about that effort and sent over several pallets of bottled water as well.”
““I feel like it would be easy to say, ‘Why don’t people just go buy some water, what’s the big deal?’” she said. “Well, you have to have a car and you have to have money, and there were clearly a lot of people there getting water for their neighbors and elderly folks.”
Singer formed network in summer 2016 with Teresa Kelly Gillis; both of them serve on the School Board. Both women also have children in the school system.
The group primarily collects donated clothes and other basic necessitie,s such as baby gear, furniture and hygiene supplies, for underprivileged students and their families. Members of the advisory board post messages asking for items through a Facebook page and via an email list to donors, or “allies” as they’re often called.”
“Expect the unexpected could be the motto for The Emergency Action Network, a practical support program that matches homeless students’ personal or housing needs with people who can fill that need. About 40 students are homeless in the Brunswick school district.
TEAN formed out of a crisis one family experienced this summer, explained Pender Makin, assistant superintendent of schools. All of their belongings were on the side of the road; they had been evicted from the apartment they were renting.
It was raining, and whatever items they had stacked on the roadside were quickly getting soaked. Makin received a phone call from a family member: Did she have a tent to keep the items from getting ruined?”
(Pender) Makin, also Brunswick’s McKinney-Vento coordinator, said Tuesday, “Unfortunately, we’re trending toward a higher number (of homeless teens in the school system) this year based on last year” and that “the situations seem more dire.” Last spring, there were over 40 homeless teens in the Brunswick school system, up from six in 2007.
TOPSHAM — Over the last decade, the homeless youth population in School Administrative District 75 has increased from 12 in 2003 to an average of 50 a year since 2008, according to data compiled by the district health coordinator. Until recently, each community in the district has responded for the most part independently to the needs of homeless youth in their school systems. But as the number of homeless students continues rises, area towns are working together to create awareness of the problem and explore common solutions.
Though she never reported it, and was never reported to school staff or police, in those months Driscoll actually met the federal definition of homelessness. She did not have a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” and was thus eligible for protections and transportation accommodations from the School Department. “It’s not something I would go to school and tell my friends about,” she said.