DEXTER - Adolescence is tough. Being an adolescent and homeless is tougher still. But imagine being an adolescent, homeless, and pregnant or parenting an infant or toddler. Where would you stay? How would you get adequate nutrition or clothing? What if you or your child was sick? What kind of future would you have?
For young women in this difficult position, the future is getting a lot brighter. Soon, there will be access to safe housing and supportive services through a maternal group home operated by Penquis. The maternal group home will be able to house and serve 4 to 5 pregnant or parenting homeless young women between the ages of 16 and 21, at any given time. "Homeless means that they are living on their own without the supervision of an adult or do not otherwise have a safe place to live," explains Wesley Neff, Division Manager within the Penquis Family Enrichment Services Department.
The group home will be located in the Dexter area, and Penquis is currently working with its subsidiary, Penquis Development, Inc., to identify and purchase appropriate property. Neff says Dexter was chosen because its population and local services are large enough to support the home and its residents. Dexter's location also makes it convenient to serving young women from both Penobscot and Piscataquis counties. While it is expected that the majority of group home residents will be from the Penquis region, young women from other areas will be served as space allows.
The goal of the maternal group home is to provide the short-term shelter and support services necessary for the young women and their children to achieve healthy, self-sufficient lives in the long term. The home will accomplish this by providing transitional living services, including safe housing, 24 hour adult supervision and case management. Residents will also receive parenting and life skills training and access to education and other community resources. Neff emphasizes that the home is not a mental health treatment facility, but will help residents access mental health services if needed.
The project is funded by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and benefits from the support of the local community. Penquis has established a community advisory board to help integrate the home into the Dexter area, as well as to make sure that group home residents have access to as many services and supports as possible.
Young women may self-refer or be referred from a variety of sources. For more information, call Wesley Neff at 973-3579.
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