ROCKLAND—“If they can’t come to us, we’ll go to them” is the unofficial motto of The Landing Place, the youth program of the Knox County Homeless Coalition and a low-barrier drop-in center for at-risk and unaccompanied youth
When the drop-in center opened in 2017, as reported by Penobscot Bay Pilot, it was the only multi-purpose drop-in center and residential program for at-risk youth in the Midcoast.
The Landing Place continually works to ensure youth have hot meals, a place to live, educational and art opportunities, and gives them the skills and tools to thrive as adults.
When COVID-19 shut down communities in the spring of 2020, the enforced social distancing seriously impacted the 30-40 youth who hung out at The Landing Place every day.
Without the means to go by, grab a meal, get a clean pair of socks, and have the much-needed social interaction, Director Joseph Hufnagel knew they needed to find a way to socially connect with the teens in a different way.
The teardrop camper that sits in the parking lot behind The Landing Space, nicknamed “TLP Mobile”, was the idea and design of local artist Kim Bernard. It was built by Bernard and the teens, who have made The Landing Place their “third place.”
“The youth helped me put it together, hammering nails, assembling with screws, and painting it,” said Bernard. “All of the youth that were involved put their signatures on the inside.”
Inside and surrounding the camper are donated jackets, hats, mittens, boots, socks, underwear, microwavable and nonperishable food, toiletries, and even art kits—all free for any kid who simply needs it.
As part of their outreach program, The TLP mobile is taken out once or twice a week for Mobile Unit Endeavors to local schools in the RSU 13 (Rockland), MSAD 40 (Waldoboro), and Five Towns CSD (Rockport) school districts.
In addition, throughout the winter, the TLP Outreach team has been orchestrating weekly Doorstep Deliveries to various neighborhoods located within the greater Rockland area on a weekly basis.
Stocked with supplies and snacks, and art and activities from their Free Store, the deliveries serve as a way to keep the kids connected and engaged, while ensuring they have what they need each week.
“If we go out to the community and bring a 14-year-old some supplies and find out that he’s got two younger siblings also at risk, we make sure we find a way to get those younger kids the resources they need, as well,” said Hufnagel.
Generous funding has made it possible for the construction of the TLP mobile as well as the art supplies that are given out.
With Bernard’s guidance, The Landing Place hosts Maker’s Space Classes, twice a week for middle school and high school students as well as a Community-Minded Jobs program that offers local youth the opportunity to earn community service hours by doing things to help others in the community.
For more information about the TLP Mobile Unit visit: The Landing Place
Stay tuned for Part II of this series: What at-risk teens need in a pandemic.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com