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Hoping for 'miracle', older couple in southern Maine places ad seeking place to rent

Lin Brown and Jon Hough
Patty Wight
Maine Public
Lin Brown and Jon Hough

An unusual ad has been appearing in a small weekly paper in southern Maine this month:

"Looking for a small miracle. Older Maine couple. Wife disabled. We will be homeless by May 1st."

Jon Hough placed the ad. He and his partner Lin Brown are looking for a place to rent in the greater Portland area.

It was nearly three years ago when their lives were upended. Brown had a stroke and slipped into a coma for two months.

"It was very touch and go," Hough says. "And the nurse literally said it's a miracle she's leaving here in the conditions she is."

Now, Hough says, the couple is hoping for another miracle: finding a place to rent in southern Maine.

Before Brown's stroke, the couple lived in her childhood home in Falmouth, where she cared for her brother who has special needs. Her sister has since taken on that role because Brown herself now needs in-home care. She and Hough had to find another place to stay and rented a house on nearby Highland Lake from a friend. But the friend ultimately decided to sell the house, so Brown says they moved again.

"We found this house by contacting the churches," she says.

It was through emailing local churches that they found their current six-month rental in Yarmouth. But the homeowner is returning in May. Hough says he has been searching for another rental since they moved in, and hasn't been able to find anything.

"It's just, as everybody knows, we're not unique," he says. "There are plenty of people out there like us. We have money, good credit. It's very hard to find a place in southern Maine that's anywhere near affordable. And I've been spending down our savings because I couldn't be able to work as much as I usually do."

Their search is also complicated by Brown's health needs. She uses a walker and a wheelchair as a result of the stroke, so the couple needs a place on the first floor or with an elevator.

Hough says as the May 1 deadline drew closer, the couple grew increasingly anxious. He knew he needed to do something different.

"I sat down and I said, 'I've got to think outside the box. I've got to do more than just keep looking online. I've got to bring people to me,'" he says.

That's when he decided to place an ad in the weekly paper.

"We are clean, no pets, and good credit," reads the ad. "Hoping to find an in-law apartment or something similar. Wife will lose her caregiver if we can't find a place to be. Man is handy. Willing to help out around the property if needed. We appreciate your consideration."

The ad has been running for a few weeks, and Hough estimates he has received about a dozen calls. While they have a few leads, he says nothing is certain. They're also concerned that Brown could lose a home health aide who provides daily care if they don't have a place to stay.

Still, Hough says, they're optimistic.

"I learned a long time ago that if you don't have hope, you're lost," he says. "You have to have hope. So we always have hope."

Hough says they don't need much space. Just the basics and a roof over their heads.

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