An addiction recovery center in Millinocket is paying local hotels so 10 people without housing have a place to spend the night, and it functions as a warming center during the day.
Pir2Peer Recovery Community Center has exhausted its own funds and local charitable resources in the process. It’s the first year that the 2-year-old center has had homeless people seeking assistance come through its doors.
The opioid crisis has hit the Katahdin region and the rest of Penobscot County hard, as the state set a new record last year for overdose deaths. Penobscot County has consistently accounted for a disproportionate share of those deaths. There are seldom available openings at the closest shelters, sober homes and treatment centers in the Bangor area.
Pir2Peer opened in February 2020 at 1009 Central St. in a former car dealership. It’s now seeking donations on its website, pir2peer.org, to continue sheltering people who need it.
Co-founder Michelle Anderson said the opioid crisis has resulted in people being cut off from family and friends and left homeless as a result.
Anderson brought the problem to the attention of the Penobscot County Commissioners and those who tuned into their meeting on Tuesday. Since then, the center has received several donations from the public totaling $1,000.
All the people the center is assisting are in the early stages of recovery and have connections to the Katahdin region, Anderson said Tuesday. Several are waiting to move into treatment centers or sober homes in Bangor that have no immediate openings, she said.
“One woman has been with us since Christmas Eve,” Anderson said. “A couple came in today. I’ve been on the phone to every resource in the area that we’ve got.”
The organization has tapped into operating funds to pay the discounted rate to house people.
“That could be a problem for us later in the year,” she said.
The center has enough food and warm clothes for the people it is assisting.
But transportation is another problem for people who don’t have vehicles, she said.
“Penquis offers transportation but we have to give them three days’ notice,” Anderson said Tuesday. “A bed may be gone by that time.”
With the help of Penobscot County Commissioner Laura Sanborn, that problem has been solved, Anderson said Wednesday.
The town also has helped out by offering General Assistance funds to the people the center is assisting.
The Millinocket center was modeled on the Bangor Area Recovery Network, or BARN, in Brewer, a volunteer-run community center that offers free self-help groups, programs for parents and recovery coaching.
The Millinocket center was able to open with assistance from Gordon Smith, Gov. Janet Mills’ director of opioid response. Smith helped the center obtain $5,000 in state money to cover some of the initial costs of renting the 3,000-square-foot building.