Tim Keefe found himself homeless in his tent in rural Maine. It was below freezing. He hadn’t had food in two days. “I’ve worked since I was 11. I’ve paid taxes my whole life. Now, they are denying me food stamps? I don’t understand this,” he said.
Keefe is a veteran, father, and widower in his 50s. He’s been homeless since 2015. After he served in the Navy for two years, Keefe found that he had little access to support when he reentered society. Even so, he was determined to find a job. He had a wife and two daughters to take care of.
So he did. But when his children were just 2 and 4, his wife died. Keefe provided for his daughters and raised them on his own. “They went off to college and started taking over the planet,” he chuckled. Like any parent, he experienced empty nest syndrome. It would take time, but he was adjusting to living in the apartment himself. In a matter of months, things fell apart.
At 47, Keefe tore the cartilage in his wrist at his job plowing snow. Gradually, his life unraveled. He was fired right after the injury. With just $400 in workers' compensation a month, he was holding on by a thread. That thread snapped when he was 49: He was evicted from his apartment, unemployed, and chronically hungry. With no source of income or workers’ comp, he tried to get a job with the same determination as when he got back from the Navy. But it was beyond his control this time: The Maine Department of Labor decided that he was medically unable to work.
The nightmare continued: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, didn’t consider Keefe’s condition a federal disability. And with the Department of Labor’s restrictions, he certainly couldn’t meet the work requirements for able-bodied adults to qualify for SNAP. Living in Maine didn’t help Keefe’s situation, either.