CAMDEN — A Camden house that was home for 120 years for the elderly is poised to become a home for women in recovery from substance abuse, if funding can be secured.
The Rockland nonprofit Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition is trying to raise $160,000 over the next three months to purchase 63 Washington Street. On Dec. 12, MCRC, headed by Ira Mandel, of Rockland, will hold an informational meeting about plans for 63 Washington Street in the John French Conference Room, at the Camden Town Office.
If it all goes as planned, the nonprofit, whose mission it is to “reduce the rate and consequences of drug addiction in Midcoast Maine,” will acquire the former home for the aged, build two more bedrooms, another bathroom, and open to women recovering from substance abuse.
“The intention is that the house would serve women in overcoming a challenge particularly relevant to the 21st Century — the effects of substance use disorder,” said Mandel. “This proposed recovery residence will provide supportive housing and wrap around services (job placement, child care services, medical and behavioral healthcare, transportation, etc.) for up to six women and their children.”
To Mandel, who founded MCRC in 2016 and has since established The Friends House, a men’s recovery home in Rockland, success lies in being part of the local community.
“Successful recovery is embedded in community,” he said. “Residents will live in the house supported in creating stability in family and moving to live independently, free of substance use disorder.”
63 Washington Street, built circa 1889 on a one-acre lot, is a familiar residential home to many.
Built by the Benevolence Society as the Camden Home for Aged Women, the First Congregational Church purchased the home in the 1980s, welcoming both men and women. Since 1983, the nonprofit 63 Washington Street has owned and operated it as a home for the elderly. The home became even more well known for the presence of The Waving Man, the late Kert Ingraham, who would sit curbside, smile and wave to passersby, until he died in November 2016.
But 63 Washington Street, as a nonprofit, fell onto hard times over the last three years.
“The current cultural emphasis on seniors aging at home, combined with the area's other larger assisted living facilities with large diversified staff better equipped to absorb the numerous regulations and codes, led to the difficult decision to close according to Board members,” the organization said last January.
The nonprofit placed 63 Washington Street on the market in January 2018 for $425,000 following an effort in 2017 to attract more elderly residents and raise money to keep it operating. But after the last resident died, 63 Washington Street closed its operational doors.
It is assessed by the town at $532,000.
According to Mandel: “We will need to raise $160,000 to help the current owners retire their debt so they can transfer the house to us and then we will need to budget more to build out two more bedrooms on the third floor and another bath. We will also need to factor in staff and other operational costs. Much to do but necessary and good for all of us.”
MCRC has entered a purchase-sale agreement with 63 Washington Street, with a planned end-of-March closing.
The MCRC board of directors, in its fundraising appeal, has said: “Substance use disorder affects nearly 10 percent of all young women in Knox County. Not only do these women struggle with this very challenging disorder, their families, including newborn children, find their lives in turmoil and instability. Research has shown that giving these families a safe and supportive environment gives them the chance to get their lives on track. In particular, families are three times more likely to succeed in their recovery when the family stays intact in a positive environment such as a recovery residence.”
Currently, Mandel is applying for grant funding from private foundations and government agencies to buy and operate 63 Washington.
But he has noted that: “Due to concern that MCRC may not be able to raise the funds to purchase the house, the board of 63 Washington has since accepted an offer from an individual to convert the house to a private residence ending its third century of service to our community. 63 Washington is allowing us 30 days to raise over $160,000 to purchase the house before they sell it to this other individual.”
MCRC is now making that appeal.