BANGOR, Maine — When it opened in 1973, the Hope House shelter was a beacon in the dark night for people struggling with the disease of alcoholism, providing a hot meal and a safe bed for even the most intoxicated.
On Monday, the facility more recently known as the Acadia Recovery Community reclaimed its original name and redefined its mission.
“There is hope for people who are struggling with addictions, and there is a safety net in this community,” said the Rev. Robert Carlson as the old Hope House sign was unveiled during a press conference at the shelter, now located on Indiana Avenue near the airport.
Carlson is the president of Penobscot Community Health Care, which last week completed the acquisition of the shelter from The Acadia Hospital, which has owned and operated the shelter since 1999.
Brent Scobie, administrator of substance abuse services at The Acadia Hospital, said funding programs at the shelter has been difficult, especially given spending constraints in the state’s Medicaid program MaineCare. PCHC, because of its status as a Federally Qualified Health Center, receives more generous Medicaid funding and is eligible for state and federal grants, he said.
With the acquisition, about 40 full- and part-time shelter staff members formerly employed by The Acadia Hospital have become employees of PCHC.
Hope House will continue to provide emergency food and shelter to alcoholics and drug addicts. In addition, it will offer on-site medical care, mental health services, housing support and social service case management.
“The research shows that wrapping services around the homeless is what works,” said shelter director Michael Amrick. Helping people move into supported residential settings and addressing their health care needs are key to breaking the cycle of mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness, he said.
“It’s always about the relationships — building alliances and meeting them where they’re at,” Amrick said of the challenging population served by the Hope House shelter.
Dr. Trip Gardner, chief psychiatric officer for PCHC, said the mission of the Hope House must be to provide comprehensive, effective services for the vulnerable homeless population.
“What would we want if we were homeless?” he asked the small audience at the press conference. “What would we want if our children were homeless, or if our parents were homeless?” A clean environment, a hot shower, a friendly staff, a good meal and a safe place to sleep are essential, he said, but so are medical care, help in finding a home, and access to substance abuse counseling and support.
“We are going to give all that we can give to help those in the most need,” Gardner said.