News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 12, 2017 and Island Ad-Vantages, October 12, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, October 12, 2017
Community Compass continues to address area poverty

by Monique Labbe

Members of the Community Compass organization, a nonprofit organization that assists those in the Blue Hill Peninsula and island communities living in poverty, continues to work toward initiatives to help those in need.

Its newest program reflects a “neighbors helping neighbors” model, according to Community Compass member Bob Holmberg of Brooksville. Navigators, as the volunteers in the program are called, work with other volunteers and organizations to help break the cycle of poverty.

“Poverty is an issue in our area, particularly in single income households,” said Holmberg. “There are many reasons these families are struggling, and what Community Compass is focused on is bringing awareness to these families about the different programs there are in the area for assistance, whether it’s food, finding employment, whatever they need.”

Working as a liaison between the families and area assistance programs is at the forefront of the Neighborhood Navigators program. Navigators link their neighbors to organizations that can help with job training and job search, and they work with young families to help link their children with early education, mentoring, and support programs.

“[The navigators] aren’t social workers, they don’t operate in the same way a social worker would for these families,” said Holmberg. “But we can put them in touch with social workers. We aren’t trying to duplicate other services, but rather help people take advantage of the programs that are out there.”

So far, the Navigators program has made contact with about 250 participants in the area in need. Holmberg hopes that the number of volunteers increases, which will allow even more outreach to take place.

The Neighborhood Navigators program is one of three programs Community Compass members have been focused on in the past year. The second is a two-generational approach to assisting families, working not only with parents but with the children of those parents.

“Families living in poverty, it’s a known fact that the children have an increase in behaviors and issues with their social and emotional development. We have been working with adult education programs on the island and with kindergarten and pre-K teachers in the area,” said Holmberg. “[Community Compass member] Linda Shepard has been able to make home visits with every newborn on [Deer Isle] as part of an outreach program to help give parents the necessary tools they need to thrive once they reach school age.”

The third effort is still in the research stage but is focused on sustainable living. Holmberg said that there aren’t a lot of “great” models, but the organization continues to look into it.

Community Compass will hold its annual meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 24, at the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill. Marge Withers of Machias Caring Community Collaborative will be the keynote speaker. Her talk, titled “Why poverty programs have failed and how we can make them work,” will focus on statewide initiatives.