MAINE, USA — On a dreary Thursday morning, Katie Sell and Hannah Crocker are both hard at work, unpacking boxes at 63 Elm Street in Machias. They are finishing up the final touches at 'Safe Harbor', a new recovery home for women and children through Healthy Acadia that is the first of its kind in Washington County.
"I’m really excited to have them here -- and see how they can improve, what I can do to help," Crocker told NEWS CENTER Maine. She is acting as the house's live-in recovery coach through AmeriCorps. Originally from Rhode Island, this week has been her first ever spent in Maine. She joined AmeriCorps because of her own experiences as an affected other, watching family and loves ones struggle with addiction and recovery.
"I’ve seen a lot firsthand and (have been) affected by a lot firsthand," Crocker admitted. "I just want to help other people not go through the same thing as much as I can."
Safe Harbor's mission also hits close to home with house manager Katie Sell. She is a person in recovery and knows how challenging it can be to break the cycle of substance abuse.
"This house is a house that meets everyone where they’re at," Sell expressed to NEWS CENTER Maine. "Everyone’s stay, everyone’s recovery plan is going to look different."
Safe Harbor is the result of a collaborative effort between Healthy Acadia, Downeaster Community Partners, Aroostook Mental Health Center, and the Community Caring Collaborative (all part of the Washington County Substance Use Response Collaborative). Safe Harbor is the first recovery residence in Downeast Maine to be certified by the Maine Association of Recovery Residences. It will not provide treatment but will support a number of pathways to recovery, like medication-assisted treatment, counseling, and primary care, by connecting members with providers.
"Having supportive people in your life who believe in you and coach you and support you is what makes recovery possible," Sell added.
Miles away in Bangor, the Fresh Start Sober Living House is also taking on a new project. In the past, Fresh Start has served only men in its houses -- but its latest building will help women. This new facility will house seven women in recovery. Like the buildings for its men, this housing is designed primarily to help people recently out of jail or prison start over if they are serious about recovery. When children will not be allowed to live at this house, they will be allowed to visit.
"It just becomes more obvious that (this) was the next right thing to do, Scott Pardy, president of Fresh Start, said about the decision to start a women's house. "There’s very little housing for women in recovery around here."
"I don’t think I could really put numbers on it, but I could tell you that we’re nowhere close to filling the need," Fresh Start's vice president, James Rickrode, elaborated.
The men say the women's house was in high demand by the community and drug court -- as a result, they were able to completely furnish the building with donations. Applications are based on whether Fresh Start can house someone safely, without putting existing members of the community at risk. Members also must be in an active program of recovery and involved in the house community.
"This is the one job where my whole brain lights up," Melissa "Anne" Day, the women's house manager, smiled. "It just asks everything of me, and I want to do that."
She explained that she has gone through a long journey with recovery -- and wants the residents living at her house to know they are not alone and that women matter.
"It is absolutely possible to find a pathway (to recovery)," Day encouraged.
Safe Harbor will serve people from Washington and Hancock counties, and women interested in living there can apply here. Women interested in living at the Fresh Start Sober Living House can call 207-307-1292 for more information.