August 23, 2019
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‘We sure did have high hopes’: Rockland sober house closes

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
Carolyn Ahlstrand and Rob Patterson are owners of the Virginia House, which is a place for women to stay in Rockland as they try to remain sober.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Virginia House opened in January 2013 with high hopes of being able to provide women a place to stay sober.

But less than two years later, the house is empty and the couple who worked hard to start the sober house have put the property up for sale.

“Yes, we sure did have high hopes,” said Rob Patterson who along with Carolyn Ahlstrand opened the Virginia House in January 2013.

The last resident left on Oct. 1. He said that woman was one of the success stories and she moved into her own apartment. But she was one of the exceptions.

“Frankly, we had a hard time finding people who were getting out of rehab,” Patterson said.

He said the lack of rehabilitation programs across the state played a role in that problem. The couple required that anyone entering the house be in recovery. Residents had to be dedicated to a recovery plan, follow house rules, and attend support meetings. The women could not have a car for the first 30 days and they were required to look for work.

He said of the 20 residents who stayed at the house, only three or four could be considered success stories. He said the lack of rehabilitation programs in the state for women was the biggest reason.

The couple made a concerted effort to find someone else to buy the house who would continue to run it as a sober house but had no success. He said the couple contacted the organizers of the proposed Fox Hill rehabilitation center that is being readied in Camden, but that went nowhere.

The couple also offered the home at a reduced cost if the new owner would agree to a covenant in the deed to operate the property as a sober house for a number of years but there were no takers.

He said with thoughts of a third winter approaching, the decision was made to sell. The property at 102 Masonic St. — with four bedrooms, two full baths and a half bath — is being marketed for $247,500.


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