by Gina Hamilton, New Maine Times
...The latest statistics indicate there were over 248,000 Mainers — up 7.5 percent from a year ago — benefiting from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That is nearly 128,000 Maine households.
P. and E. are living in a friend's basement because while they qualify for Section 8 and public housing, there is a two-year waiting list (or longer) in the midcoast. There are emergency family shelters, but they are nearly always full. They feel fortunate to have good friends who are willing to give up their own privacy to help them. And they still haven't wrapped their heads around the idea that they are "poor."
"My four-year-old wanted to go to McDonald's for her birthday last month," E. said. "That's all she wanted ... a Happy Meal and a little time in the playground. I told her we could go to McDonald's to play for a while, but that we had to come home for dinner ... I was planning to make hamburgers and french fries, make it like Happy Meals." Her voice broke. "But then P. went up to the counter and talked to the manager, who brought both girls a Happy Meal on the house. I was so grateful ... it was such a little thing, and we just couldn't afford to do it." The family's unemployment funds are going to keep up with the payments on P.'s truck and E.'s car, which they will need to resume their jobs, and car and life insurance.