Four years ago, I created a mini docu-series on YouTube featuring a local homeless youth project. This program is headed by Jamie Caouette, a pillar in the Lewiston/Auburn community, and is called the "Store Next Door."

I launched the series in response to the vital financial need at that time. I was extremely shocked to discover that there were children and teens living without homes in my town, some even in tents. This is not supposed to happen.

Now, this program may sadly face closure, and this cannot happen.

Below is a video from the previous homeless youth series.

People often underestimate the weight of Jamie's work, thinking she only manages the "Store Next Door."

Jamie told me that there are currently 434 homeless students in Lewiston Public Schools. If you have a child that attends the Lewiston Public School system, chances are, your kiddo knows one if not more children who are currently unhoused.

In reality, the store's operation alone demands the full-time effort of more than just a couple of people. This program provides all the essentials for teenagers to help with their daily health needs and mental well-being. From basic necessities like soap and socks to food, Jamie and her team go above and beyond by providing comfort, love, and support.

This is crucial, as many of these kids come from broken homes and face terrible hardships that many others may not understand. They are trusted adults for these youth, helping them rebuild trust and feel safe. Many former students have reached out as adults to thank them for their support.

That is why this program needs to not only survive, but thrive.

In response to this, former students that benefited from the program, like Taylor Chamberlain, are writing letters urging council members to reconsider the cut.

It isn’t easy getting through high school. When you have situations outside of school that are beyond your control, it makes it even harder.

This type of program needs to be in every school.. It changes people. It saves lives. It saved mine.. The Store Next Door gives so many opportunities for youths to get out of struggling situations and make their lives better


Jamie has dedicated 16 years to supporting homeless youth in Lewiston schools, and at great personal cost. She shares her personal cell number, responds to emergencies at all hours, and prioritizes the well-being of her students. She never rests. She never stops.

This isn't the first time this program has faced adversity and imminent closure, but Jamie and the team have been able to keep it afloat so far.

Recently, the Lewiston School Committee members voted to cut $500,000 from the previously -ejected $111.47 million budget.

The Sun Journal recently reported,

Superintendent Jake Langlais proposed several possible areas to cut totaling just over $1.04 million. Those cuts included: $141,000 less in student resource staffing that would impact funding to resources such as the Store Next Door.

The cuts will affect the store next door profoundly, and they may not be able to continue at all.

There is a city council meeting tonight at Lewiston City Hall to approve the school budget.

And then this will be scheduled to go to voters on June 11, so make sure to vote, because it counts.

We must find a way to take care of our kids, no matter the cost or circumstances.

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