Help the helpers

Friday, November 3 is Love Lewiston Day!

Tree Street Youth is organizing Love Lewiston Day as a day where people can spend intentional time doing something in honor of the victims of the mass shooting and their families in Lewiston last week. #LoveLewiston logo created by Tree Street Youth Alumni, Eamon White.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people that are helping. ‘” — Fred Rogers

Preble Street has many connections to Lewiston – big and small. We have an office in Lewiston, staff who live in the community and who knew the victims, friends and family who live in Lewiston, clients who have found housing and inclusion from the Lewiston community, and many partners who do amazing work on behalf of Lewiston’s hungry, impoverished, and homeless communities. We mourn those whose lives were cut short and are devastated by this senseless act of violence and the way its impacts will linger for so long.

As we begin to process the tragedy of what happened in Lewiston last week, we want to recognize the vital role that ‘helpers’ play in our communities – from the people who stepped into harm’s way to protect others to the medical teams providing care to the first responders who led a massive search effort, so that people could come back together to grieve and find solace with others. There were so many helpers who stepped up.

And now we all try to figure out what is next.

The rhetoric and debate that follows mass shootings have already begun. But, where does it get us? Preventing future traumas like this is not a binary choice – there is room for many, many ways for us to make our communities safer and stronger. To make our collective future better.

As social workers, we know that Adverse Childhood Experiences make a person far more likely to experience mental health, chronic health, or substance use issues later in life; they increase the likelihood that a person will either be a victim of violence later or a perpetrator of violence. We know that – no matter how dedicated and talented the people working in our systems are – our social support systems, including mental health care, resources for substance use, and resources to help people meet their basic needs, have been stretched to limits and cannot meet everyone’s needs.  We know that the way to fix things is to find solutions together and to advocate for a better world for the most vulnerable members of our society – our children; our families struggling to make ends meet; our unhoused neighbors; our friends, neighbors, and family members who need additional support and resources.

As soon as we heard about the shootings on Wednesday night, Preble Street staff started calling clients in Lewiston. We offered support to partners working on the ground in Lewiston. We reassured people living in our shelters and Site-based Housing First programs. We provided support to each other and hugged our friends, partners, kids, and grandkids just a little bit tighter. We carried on with regular services. We continued helping people move out of the Marginal Way encampment before the November 1 sweep. Alongside our volunteers, we prepared thousands of hot meals and packed hundreds of grocery boxes.

Preble Street and so many other helpers will do what they can the next time Maine is impacted by a big event – whether a snowstorm or something tragic. Amid this tragedy, we need to acknowledge that it will take courageous statements and actions to enact the policy changes that need to be made to ensure that no other Maine city suffers this type of trauma. To help the helpers, we need to act now and do what needs to be done to keep our friends, families, and community safe.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, many people in Lewiston will need additional support. Here are just a few resources:

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