ORLAND, Maine — For nearly half a century, Lucy Poulin has fought the good fight against poverty, homelessness and perhaps especially hopelessness as the founder and executive director of the H.O.M.E. craft cooperative and shelter community just off Route 1 in Orland.
Now, at 76, the former Carmelite nun is going to have a chance to rest a little. Poulin, who still is fondly known as “Sister Lucy” by many, last Wednesday officially handed over the leadership of the community to longtime assistant director Tracey Hair.
“It’s time for younger people to take over,” Poulin said Friday. “I think that it is in good hands. As long as I’m alive I’ll try to be here being supportive and raising money. We never have enough money, as you know, but if it’s God’s work, it will continue.”
In many ways, H.O.M.E. — which stands for Homeworkers Organized for More Employment — looks similar to the way it did when it was founded in 1970. The cluster of buildings on the hillside campus looks cheery and industrious, and includes crafting workshops for leather, pottery, stained glass, a sawmill, a small chapel a day care center, a soup kitchen, an auto repair shop, short-term and long-term housing and much more.
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Poulin’s hands-on approach to working with the poor was at odds with the Carmelites, and she was expelled from the order soon after H.O.M.E. was founded. Still, Poulin’s faith has been the lodestar of the community’s mission for all these years, and even though Hair has never been a nun, she doesn’t plan to make a lot of changes in that regard.
“My intention is that we move forward very closely aligned with our original values,” the 41-year-old said. “The continuity of the program will stay. Only I’ll be the one who stays awake at night instead of Lucy.”
As is the case with many of the H.O.M.E. employees and leaders, Hair herself used to be served by the programs there. Australian by birth, she spent many years in America as an undocumented immigrant. She was married to an American woman, but the partnership wasn’t formally recognized until just two years ago. Hair chose to stay in Maine with her wife, but had to live in a way she described as “underground.” They are still married and now live in their own home, but Hair still appreciates all the help she got from Poulin and the others. She is glad to give back.
“I’m very lucky to have landed at H.O.M.E.,” she said. “I learned that this organization was founded and run by radical nuns. That inspired me. I wanted to be part of something that engaged my mind, my heart and my head.”
H.O.M.E. fit the bill, she said.
“It’s unique,” Hair said. “When you’re talking about homelessness, it’s more than just three hots and a cot. You have to have a reason to get out of bed.”
Poulin, who will continue to help at the community as long as she is able, said that she is happy that the organization’s future seems so secure.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “God is blessing us with people to help.”
BDN writer Meg Haskell contributed to this report.