PORTLAND — There isn’t much that Mike Carr and Curtis Haynes haven’t seen at the Milestone Foundation at 65 India St.
But as the nonprofit celebrates 50 years of sheltering and treating people with substance use disorders, what both men want to see is more help, more compassion.
“Don’t discriminate against anybody,” Carr said Aug. 31. “There needs to be a lot more doors open financially. The state needs to step up; we need more money.”
Carr and Haynes have worked in shelters on India Street for 41 and 40 years, respectively, and predate Milestone’s arrival in Portland by almost 20 years.
Milestone’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday, Sept. 9, with a fundraising 50-mile motorcycle ride beginning and ending in Old Orchard Beach. The ride will be followed by a party at the Milestone residential treatment campus at 58 Portland Road.
The Milestone Foundation was established in Maine in 1967 by Joe and Micki Askey at what had been known as The Danish Village on U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough. Within the cluster of Danish-style houses and the faux town hall, the couple began treating patients with substance use disorders who had limited means to pay, according to the Milestone website.
A year later, Milestone shifted to Old Orchard Beach, where, in 1979, a long-term residential treatment program was established. This was followed in 2002 by permanent housing for graduates of the residential program.
“That allows clients to remain part of the treatment community and reintegrate and rebuild lives and family relationships,” Executive Director Bob Fowler said Aug. 30. “It also gives them a chance to mentor.”
In 1998, Milestone took over what had been the Arnie Hanson Center on India Street, which had been operated by Catholic Charities of Maine. The shelter now sleeps 41, and Milestone also operates a 16-bed detox center, the only one in Maine that admits patients without health insurance.
Carr and Haynes, it seems, were part of the deal. Carr recalls when the shelter was called The 24 Hour Club and he helped bring people in from the street by loading them on a plywood sheet that could be hoisted into the back of a station wagon.
“My two brothers worked there and really liked it,” Carr recalled. “They were helping the homeless, said it was challenging, and every day is something different.”
Haynes started about a year later after meeting some shelter staff at a Christmas party. He had been invited to the party by his recovery sponsor, who was the head nurse. A job opened after the party. He got it and stayed.
Over the decades, there is not much Carr and Haynes have not stepped in, been splattered with or washed off the people they help. Any shift can have them cursed at, assaulted or thanked. Some shifts have all of that.
“They are drunk, helpless and vulnerable,” Haynes said. “The second shift is almost like babysitting, you feed them and put them to bed. You have to sit them in the shower and hold them down.”
Fowler said Milestone can too often be a hospice center.
“For many of the people we work with, this is a fatal disease and they won’t survive it,” he said.
The reward is the recovery.
“I think both of us do it to see if we can get the jump on addiction,” Carr said. “Even for one day, for a week, if we get them off the street, that break is when things can really happen.”
“Oh my God there are some magic moments,” Haynes said. “I got really teary- eyed, that is really worth it.”
When Fowler joined Milestone almost four years ago, the dynamics of the need was shifting from alcohol use to opioids.
“It is deeper, it is more profound,” Fowler said of the effects of opioid addiction on the brain.
Fowler estimates the need is evenly split. Haynes said the shelter may now have 60 percent of people addicted to opioids staying on any given night.
Detox placement requests swamp Milestone; Fowler said three to five people are turned away a day. No one is sure how many people don’t call because they already know it is futile.
The $2.9 million Milestone operating budget includes $113,000 from the city for the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Team, and the city will contribute $100,000 from the sale of the Cotton Street parking lot this year to help reconfigure the detox area and pay for adding electronic record keeping.
What Milestone is lacking more and more is state aid. Fowler said MaineCare reimbursements are 20 percent of what they were in 2014, now reduced to about $400,000 from $1.8 million.
“There is a weight and gravity to that for everybody who works here,” he said. “It is difficult to be patient with funding and wrestling with how you are just going to try and tread water.”
As the Milestone Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary, Executive Director Bob Fowler said Aug. 30 that services are more in demand as funding becomes more precarious.
Curtis Haynes and Mike Carr each have 40 years of experience in the shelter now operated by Milestone Foundation at 65 India St. in Portland. “It takes a certain person to do this; you can see the people who handle it and the ones who can’t,” Haynes said Aug. 31.
The Milestone Foundation has operated a shelter and detox center at 65 India St. in Portland since 1998. Before that the building also housed shelters operated by several other agencies.