SOUTH PORTLAND — The Opportunity Alliance and the Maine Department of Corrections are launching a program in Westbrook to give youth offenders a place to live and learn life skills after completing their sentences.
The voluntary Project RISE – Realizing Independence Surpassing Expectations – will house six men ages 18-21 at a single-family home at 6 State St. in Westbrook. The young men will have just wrapped up their their sentences at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.
The program will cost about $267,000 per year, said Colin O’Neill, associate commissioner with the Maine Department of Corrections.
“The purpose of the re-entry home is to provide residents at Long Creek who have successfully completed their program a safe and viable home to return to in order to support their transition back into the community,” O’Neill said. “Justice-involved youth who do not have favorable living situations to return to are at risk of re-offending.”
The Opportunity Alliance bought the State Street house in December, said Wendi Dubois, vice president of child and family resiliancy and success at the Opportunity Alliance. The purchase price, according to online real estate records, was $310,000. The 2,183 square-foot house, built in 1892, has four bedrooms.
The program’s main goal is to help the residents be successful in the community, Dubois said. The program will help them with employment, careers, education opportunities and independent living skills.
The Opportunity Alliance is working in conjunction with the Maine DOC to screen applicants who want to participate, with priority given to those with no place else go go, she said.
The home will be staffed 24 hours a day, she said. It is not a medical or treatment facility, but the program does have a clinical social worker.
The typical stay will be about six months, and the young men will be expected to have a job or a job lined up upon entering the program, she said.
Life skills taught could cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, banking and balancing a checkbook.
“We want them to have enough skills to either live on their own or with a friend,” Dubois said.
The program will also offer about six months of “after care,” when participants move out, such as helping with career skills and checking in on them to see how they are doing.
Jim Gemmell, vice president of communications for the Opportunity Alliance, said the group has been meeting with Westbrook neighbors to let them know about the community-based reintegration program and has received a fairly positive response. They will continue to meet with neighbors prior to opening. That date has not been set, he said, but is being driven by safety compliance work, including a sprinkler system, required by the city.
“I believe this will be an extraordinary program that will substantially increase the odds of a successful transition into the community for these young men,” Gemmell said.
The launch of Project RISE comes as the Transformation Project, a faith-based non-profit is scheduled to open next month at 907 Main St. in Westbrook. That residential program will also house transitioning offenders from Long Creek, and plans to employ the youth at an on-site cafe that will open in late spring or early summer.
This Victorian-style house at 6 State St. in Westbrook will be home to the Opportunity Alliance’s Project RISE.