Peaks Island woman creates community effort to clothe the homeless

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PORTLAND — Anna Blash went looking for a man named Lewis at the Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal Monday.

He wasn’t there, but wherever he was, he was probably warmer thanks to Blash.

Blash, 32, is a writer who also works “odd jobs,” and has lived on Peaks Island since March. A job she took about two weeks ago was finding winter clothing for Lewis, a homeless man she met last summer.

“I took him out for soup once,” she said, and learned he preferred spending days in the terminal to time at Preble or Oxford streets.

On Jan. 7, Blash posted a request on PI List, the island cyber bulletin board operated by Peaks resident Carol Eisenberg.

“He’s still wearing the same hoodie and jeans I met him in this summer. I’m trying to put together a bag of winter gear for him. He’s looking really cold these days,” Blash said in her post.

She set up a collection box that was soon filled, but then found Lewis prefers to live lightly. So instead, the excess donations are helping other homeless people.

“I got three garbage bags full of stuff,” she said. “I’ve been bringing him things one at a time.”

So far, Blash has given Lewis a jacket, gloves and a hat. On Monday, she also brought a backpack she wanted to give him. She and her neighbor, David Vincent, had also brought over more clothing, along with leftovers from a community  dinner held Sunday that raised money for a fuel assistance fund.

Blash offered food to some of the men spending their morning in the terminal with mixed results. The remainders would go to Preble Street.

The clothing contributions were practical. One was quizzical.

“This is my favorite donation,” Blash said, holding out one tie-dyed sock. “I wonder if someone wanted us to make a sock puppet?”

Some clothing was given to a friend of Blash’s, a former Buddhist monk returning to the wider world. Some clothing also went to a Peaks resident.

“You never know who is in need in your backyard,” Blash said.

She and Vincent said they knew islanders would respond to her plea.

“This is the thing about islanders,” Vincent said. “They open their hearts when there is a call for help.”

Blash, native of Miami, said this is not the first time she has tried to help someone in need.

“I feel like it is natural, it is being human,” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Peaks Island resident Anna Blash holds a tie-dyed sock donated to help a homeless man she met at the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.
  • yathink2011

    So the new norm is to help the homeless so you can get your story in the paper and on social media. It isn’t a game. Or it never used to be. Pretty soon there will be a Facebook Page called “I Helped The Homeless, Look At Me” where people can post selfie’s with homeless people. Why not just help them and stop bragging about it?

    • David Harry

      If you think Anna is “bragging” or playing a “game,” it says much more about you and your anonymous snark. I sought her out after reading her PI List post. and found a very rewarding story.

      • yathink2011

        Let’s hang winter coats from telephone poles and sit around and see who takes them. Then post it on social media so everyone can “Like” it. Why not give the homeless a little dignity and just help them without all the publicity, like many more people do. The fact that she had to “post it” makes my point.