This is How a Couple Survived Almost a Year in the Maine Woods
Hope and miracles. That is what this story reveals to me when I first heard about it. It's incredible what the human spirit can go through, and yet still be optimistic about the future.
According to Seacoast Online, ever since February, Jeff and Tami Sandler have been living in the woods of Sanford. Yes, living outside.
Their tumultuous journey through all four seasons left the couple recalling moments they faced and what their greatest challenges were.
How did they become homeless? Their landlord gave them 90 days to leave their rented room, citing the need to accommodate an unwell relative. Middle-aged Jeff and Tami faced the challenge with no close surviving relatives to seek refuge with, as all those they were once close to had passed away.
The hardest moment for me, was that very first night when I knew Tami wouldn't have a roof over her head.
So they journeyed into the woods in Sanford and built their own makeshift tent home. They have lived in the woods for 10 months as the article states, saying "all of it" was the lowest point.
"Every place we asked for help, they either gave us another phone number or said they couldn’t help," said Jeff
Despite their challenging current circumstances, Jeff is a funny guy with a sense of humor and when asked what his name is, he giggles and says,
“Sandler. Except without all the money.”
Jeff notes that the humor keeps them going.
The small tent they live in was a donation from the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, originally used by Cub Scouts from Troop 324.
To enhance weather protection, they've covered the tent with three tarps, with a fourth suspended from nearby trees.
And how do they stay warm at night? Well, according to Seacoast, the Sandlers use a small heater powered by a mini propane tank. Aware of the risks, they follow a safety routine so they only run it for 10 minutes at a time and then turn it off for an hour. Jeff says they avoid using it when feeling drowsy, and the heater automatically shuts off if it tips over.
"We keep it simple," Jeff states.
They also want clarify they don't use drugs or drink. Unfortunately, homelessness is associated with stigma and shame. However, it is a reality for hardworking people, and homelessness does not have a face. The Sandlers are working to counteract that stigma associated with homelessness, saying,
We're just like anyone else with hopes and dreams. We're not here due to wrongdoing; we simply lack the funds for a house.
Among the roughly 200 homeless individuals in the community identified by the Sanford Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, the Sandlers find solace in the unit's efforts. Despite their long and hard ordeal, the couple is optimistic that their nightmare might soon end and want to inspire hope in others facing a similar hardship.
They take this a day at a time, not showering, not eating hot meals, but showering each other with love. Jeff says that,
...we’re wonderful people who have the same hopes and dreams that you have. We didn’t do anything wrong to be in the situation we’re in ... We just don’t have the money for a house."
While disappointed in some town agencies and organizations, the Sandlers are grateful to the local police department’s mental health unit. Led by Sgt. Colleen Adams with Shannon Bentley as the mental health first responder, the unit recently secured a housing voucher, ensuring the couple has their own apartment before Christmas.
They are hoping they will be able to get into an apartment, but will believe it when they are officially there and can take hot showers, according to the article.
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