Finding A Way

Teenagers and young adults in Maine face challenges that are increasingly difficult to navigate. They or someone in their family may struggle with substance use disorder, homelessness or gender identity. There’s the ever-looming issue of trying to pay for college, finding a good-paying job and trying to make good choices when times get tough. In our series “Finding A Way,” Maine Public will examine some barriers to success for young people and the resources and opportunities available to keep them on course.

This project is funded with support from the John T. Gorman Foundation.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Maine youth ages 10 to 24, and the rate of suicides among Maine's youth is higher than the national average.

Brunswick High School is responding to the problem with a new program that trains students to raise awareness and be a resource for peers. Maine Public reporter Patty Wight visited the student training Thursday as part of our ongoing series Finding a Way.

Brett Plymale / Maine Public

The challenges of poverty and homelessness affect thousands of young people across Maine and create barriers that extend far beyond school walls. But some districts are trying approaches aimed at keeping those kids engaged in learning by also helping them with basic needs. A new program that takes such an approach in York County is showing early signs of success.

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Homelessness among young people is on the rise in Maine. In conjunction with the series that Maine Public reporter Robbie Feinberg is doing on this issue, we examine the issue of youth homelessness in Maine, how big of a problem it is, and what’s being done to address it.


In many rural towns across Maine, schools are on the front lines of the effort to identify students who are homeless or displaced, and to help them with basic needs like clothing, food and health care.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Recent financial trends have not been kind to some organizations serving homeless youth, especially those in rural Maine. Programs and youth shelters in Rockland, Skowhegan and Rumford have all closed over the last dozen years. With fewer resources, teens in rural areas have had to face a tough choice: stay within the community they know or move to an unfamiliar city that might offer more support.

Brett Plymale / For Maine Public

Maine is seeing a growing number of young people, from preschool through 12th grade, who are homeless or displaced. They are moving into shelters, couch surfing with other families and, in rare cases, camping or living in cars. According to the National Center for Homeless Education the number of homeless youth increased by 30 percent in just two years.

Brett Plymale / For Maine Public

The rising incidence of youth homelessness can stay hidden in a rural state like Maine, yet just two years ago, more than 2,500 public school students in the state were reported as homeless or displaced — a significant increase from the numbers seen just two years prior.

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The latest Kids Count Data Book reports that Maine children have the highest rate of diagnosed anxiety in the country, as well as high rates of depression and suicide. We learn what causes, signs and treatments are for anxiety in young people, as well as resources available to children and families.

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Teens and older youth in the foster care system often face the additional challenge of having to prepare to live independently. We'll learn about the difficulties and opportunities for these young people.

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Almost one in five children in Maine lives in poverty. What can be done to break this cycle? We’ll learn about a new initiative that seeks to address the challenges of childhood poverty on many levels.

Caitlin Troutman / Maine Public

“I crashed at friends’ houses for a while. It was a job to find a place to sleep. I slept under bridges, slept in my car when I could...it was, really, whatever I could come up with that day. I’d wake up and my goal would be to find a place to sleep the next day... It made me feel weak, like I wasn’t as good as everyone else because I couldn’t figure it out, I couldn’t figure out how to not be homeless.”

Courtesy Photo

The John T. Gorman Foundation says Maine should do a better job of helping at-risk teens complete the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

In a report released Tuesday, the foundation recommends creating a “comprehensive, coordinated, flexible and youth-centered continuing of care,” for teens at risk due to poverty, homelessness, or who have already done something to place them in the juvenile justice system.