Why Sophia’s House? Three Stories…

ONE: She was 34 years old and dying from cirosis of the liver. I visited her in the hospital. “Do you want to live?” I asked. “I don’t want to die.” she answered. The next day she checked herself out of the hospital and came to The Center with a handful of perscriptions, but had no money to buy them. We helped her get the meds and gave her some food as she had none. She was stayin a boarding house.  Before she left I asked “Do you want a hug?” and she took one. I held her gently for a few breaths and whispered “We love you.” She died a day later. Her family brought her few belongings to us, not knowing what to do with them. She is the first one we watched die and I don’t want another. Would she have come to Sophia’s House? Maybe. I hope so.

TWO: She has been here before, every now and then. I first knew her 10 years ago from another job as a home visitor for local a parenting program.  She came in one afternoon and it was several minutes before I recognized her.  She is in worse shape now – no teeth, hair a ratty mess, puffy face.  “How are you?” I asked.  “Good” she said without looking at me. “On my meds.”  I notice she is pregnant, and seemed to be off drugs. She only wanted hygiene items and left. I hope she comes back. What might have been possible for her if there had been a Sophia’s House ten years ago? Will she still be here in two years when we open?

THREE: She has been in prison for three years and will be released soon. We knew her before and have visited and supported her during her incarceration.  She is sober now and wanting to start a new life.  She is also anxious about being able to make it on her own.  “You will only be on your own if you choose to be.” I say. “We will be there.” For now though, only in the daytime. Finding housing is the hardest and we haven’t found any yet. We get calls from case workers weekly looking for housing for women leaving prison. One is leaving the county jail next week. We’ll do what we can for now, but if only we had Sophia’s House, they could live there.

Mission:

Support and empower women survivors of addiction, trafficking, and incarceration through holistic healing in a shared community.

Vision:

Become the go to place in Maine for trauma informed, gender sensitive recovery that provide holistic healing for women – mind, body and spirit/soul – that is grounded in community and in love. Healing through horticulture, healing through healthy food, healing through art, healing through meaningful work, healing through stable community life, healing through spirituality, healing with appropriate therapy and good medical care… 

Targeted to open late 2019, Sophia’s House will provide two years of healing and housing for women who are survivors of prostitution, trafficking, prison, and addiction.  The project will be an adaptation of the successful 20 year Magdalene program at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN, a comprehensive, two year “housing first” community based model. www.thistlefarms.org

The gender sensitive and trauma informed program will include wrap-around support services for therapy, addiction recovery, via Health Affiliates Maine and medical care and GED work through other local agencies. The Center will provide ongoing programs related to building resiliency and relationships and women will start job training in The Center’s social enterprise called Herban Works. There they will experience meaningful work in a contained and nurturing environment while also earning a small stipend. The work itself is healing with a focus is on growing and drying calendula and various herbs. Products created from them include a salve and tea made with calendula, dried mixed herbs and a lavender eye pillow. Women will also access programs such as Healthy Homeworks and New Ventures Maine for further training.

The house will also include a permanent resident community that will sustain the basic operating costs of the house and will provide stability in community life. The permanent residents (some of whom may serve as mentors) and women in the long term program will share community spaces and regular meals. The house will also offer hospitality to neighbors through simple meals or programs held in the common areas.

 

How you can help.

Capital Campaign: We have raised 2/3 of the funding needed to renovate the convent building. Funds to date include a $500,000 affordable housing grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and a CDBG grant  of $150,000. The project also qualifies for historic preservation tax credits of over $300,000.  Public support will  bring us the rest of the way. The Sisters of Charity and Geiger family made early lead gifts. The remaining needed is $550,000 of which about $100,00 has been raised or pledged.  You are invited to join the effort through a gift to the capital campaign. Meanwhile, ongoing annual operating support of the current Center goes ahead and gifts for that purpose are always welcomed.

Volunteers: Since word is getting out about this project, we have been receiving requests to visit women who are currently incarcerated.  These may be the first residents of Sophia’s House! Teams of two commit to visiting monthly and writing between visits. If interested, inquire at The Center 207-513-3922. Volunteers are also needed to help plan an early fall neighborhood celebration to launch the public phase of the campaign.

SAVE the DATES

Open House Tours:
Fridays July 6 & 20, 3-6:00 and Thursdays August 9 & 30, 4:30-6:30.
Neighborhood Celebration to Launch the Public Phase of the Campaign:
Ice Cream Social & Pizza Party Sunday afternoon, September 9, 2:00-5:00

Plans

The common denominator for women at The Center, are adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  Just over half of the women score 6 or higher on the 10 point survey.  It is chronic trauma, that for most began in childhood, that has impacted lives so deeply that each woman survived in the only way she could. The good news is that with the support of a loving community, women over time can help each other heal and learn to be resilient. Sophia’s House will offer that chance and support.The house accommodate the following components:

First Floor: Significant community space (kitchen, dining room, old chapel area for group work and programs). The kitchen will be up to code for use as in the social enterprise and baking. There is also a handicapped accessible apartment and a dormitory style guest room for use by visiting families of residents and folks who come to learn about us or work temporarily in neighborhood non-profits.

Second Floor: Permanent residents will have a private modest apartments (mix of efficiency, 1 BR), with access to the shared community space in a “co-housing” model that is familiar in Scandinavia. Residents will be living on a fixed income (retirement, disability, or work etc.). Three apartments will be subsidized and two at market rate.

Third Floor: A shared house with six private bedrooms for women in the recovery program, shared living and dining area, 2-baths and laundry.

Basement: Storage bins for residents, and social enterprise working or storage spaces.