Warming Center Co-Managers Billie Jo Warren and Renee Mozeliak receive a delivery of freshly made soup from Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital. (Courtesy photo)

ELLSWORTH — On any given night, hundreds of Maine people and hundreds of thousands of individuals and families across the U.S. are temporarily unhoused or experiencing chronic homelessness.

In response to the rapidly expanding regional crisis, Healthy Acadia, a nonprofit community health organization serving Hancock and Washington counties, convened a broad coalition of municipal agencies, community-serving organizations, local leaders and community members, and key collaborative partners at the state and regional levels. A temporary overnight warming center was identified as a high-priority need to serve our communities during the coldest months of the year, and the partners moved quickly to make this need a reality.

On Dec. 23 Healthy Acadia, in collaboration with many partners and with broad community support, opened a temporary, overnight warming center at their INSPIRE Recovery Center, located at 24 Church Street in Ellsworth.

The Warming Center is open every evening, including holidays, through April 30 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to individuals and families who are unhoused, or who are in need of warmth and safety, in Hancock and Washington counties, as space allows. Coffee, drinks, and snacks are available throughout the night, and a hot meal is served daily at 7:30 p.m. No pre-registration is necessary; community members are welcome to come to 24 Church Street at anytime between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to get warmth, rest, and/or food. If you are interested in learning more or finding out if there is space at any given time, please call 207-412-2288 or email warmingcenter@healthyacadia.org. Anyone is also welcome to simply stop by!

“I am so appreciative of the support our local community has expressed for the Warming Center, said Paige Johnston, Healthy Acadia’s Maine Recovery Core director. “We have been blessed with donations of supplies and food, folks coming in to volunteer their time, and nightly safety checks from Ellsworth Police Department.”

The Warming Center is made possible by support for emergency shelters from Gov. Janet Mills’ Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan, which earned strong bipartisan support from the Legislature, along with Witham Family Hotels Charitable Fund, Maine Community Foundation, and many individual donors. In addition, Northern Light Health Maine Coast Hospital, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, and First Congregational Church of Ellsworth have each committed to providing home-cooked meals weekly to support those at the Warming Center. H.O.M.E. has donated Hannaford gift cards and supplies, and generous community members have donated many needed items.

“Just because we may not see those who are unhoused, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening around us; it is happening more than we know,” said Renee Mozeliak, Warming Center co-manager. 

“I never realized there was such a need for this in our community until I started working in this field,” said Billie Jo Warren, Warming Center co-manager.  “I have met some of the most amazing people and I am honored to have heard their stories. I am proud to work for an organization that sees the needs in our community, and I’m happy to say I have finally found a job that I truly love.” 

“I am grateful to be working with Healthy Acadia and be a part of the warming center for our communities to use when they need a warm, safe, and welcoming space to rest their head on these cold Maine winter nights,” said Mozeliak. “There is nothing I would rather be doing than being here for those wanting to use the warming center. Even if we have one guest overnight, that’s one less person out in the bitter cold left to fend off the winter weather alone.”

“We are honored to be able to help meet this important community need in collaboration with many partners and led by the communities we serve,” stated Elsie Flemings, Healthy Acadia’s executive director. “The Warming Center staff team is caring, compassionate, and dedicated to providing a reliable, comfortable space for our community members to find rest, warmth, safety, and nourishment.”

Healthy Acadia is a 501(C)(3) community health organization building vibrant communities and making it easier for all people to lead healthy lives throughout Washington and Hancock counties. For more information about Healthy Acadia’s health and wellness programs and services, visit healthyacadia.org.