Augusta Nonprofit House Update Mission to Help More Female Veterans


AUGUSTA – The Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope, formed in Augusta in 2017 to house and help homeless women, was already in the midst of a lengthy reorganization that included closing its historic home.

Now the program has reopened the house and is expanding its mission to help all female veterans.

And one of the initial priorities of the new executive director of the organization is to offer the resources of the home to female veterans and women currently serving in the armed forces, who may have experienced sexual abuse or sexual harassment while in service. military service. That includes those from the Maine National Guard, which has been the subject of recent reports detailing an increase in the number of substantiated sexual assault cases.

While the house still plans to provide transitional housing for female veterans – one of only 10 such facilities in the country – the executive director, Lt. Rebecca Cornell of Houx, said the house would be upgraded to a center providing resources and assistance to all female Veterans and their children, not just those who are homeless or in need.

Cornell du Houx, former chair of its board and certified social worker, envisions the home providing support in a variety of ways for women, which she said many male veterans have, but it’s hard to find for the growing number of women in the military.

“If a veteran woman needs anything, we’ll try to support her, whether it’s reconnecting her with veterans services or opening a bed for her,” said Cornell du Holly, who has a master’s degree in clinical social work and served in the Maine National Guard for 18 years, and currently serves as a lieutenant and behavioral health officer for the Guard. “We are moving only from homeless female veterans to all female veterans and their children, to encompass many other resources, including legal support, therapy, group support, substance use disorder support, all the female veterans who say they need the support we want to provide. There isn’t a lot of support for female veterans out there.

The non-profit organization that runs the house, located at 8 Summer Street in Augusta, began a reorganization last year after its founder and former CEO, Martha St. Pierre, left the organization. As part of this change, the organization’s remaining leaders stopped welcoming female veterans into the home, until they had time to reorganize.

Four women staying at the home at the time who didn’t want to leave at the time have since found new, more permanent accommodation with help from House of Hope, Holly’s Cornell said.

Cornell du Houx became executive director this year and said the house had recently reopened and was again able to provide temporary accommodation. Now, however, there is no one home because no woman has shown interest in moving in, she said.

The exterior view of the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Augusta is seen on Thursday. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

Cornell du Houx, who has a full-time job outside the home, said the organization was looking to raise funds so that it could hire someone to oversee the home and someone to serve as a resource coordinator in order to be available to assist female veterans during regular periods. working hours. For the moment, the house is not regularly staffed. Veteran women looking to connect for help or want to stay home can contact Cornell du Houx at 207-530-0466.

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, who is expected to become a member of the House of Hope board of directors, said the change and the expanded mission “is wonderful.”

“The more hope we can give to more people, the better,” said Maloney.

Cornell du Houx expects the organization to change its name to reflect its expanded mission, potentially to a “Sisters in Arms Center”, although the organization’s board has yet to consider the name change.

Sisters in Arms is also named after a new support group, Strong Bonds for our Sisters in Arms, which is due to hold its first meeting at home at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Holly Cornell and Sgt. Aleigh Suffern formed the new group following recent reports of sexual assault and harassment of women in the Maine National Guard.

“If a female veteran is being assaulted or doesn’t feel safe or just wants to be with other female veterans who will be there for her, the doors are always open to them,” Holly’s Cornell said of the support group and of the House. . “The support group is an opportunity for us to come together and connect. The experience of harassment or assault is so incredibly isolating. These women, many of whom are nurses and doctors, have historically saved lives, they are some of the most amazing people I have met in my life. Male veterans have an incredibly strong network, not female veterans. It’s unfortunate and that’s what I want to build here. A network where we can all support each other.

Maloney said she plans to offer the group her experience as a district attorney and confidentiality. She said she will offer, as she has done to other groups in the past, the ability to speak to her anonymously about any questions or concerns they may have, including if something has happened to them. is against the law and what are their options if they wish to lay criminal charges.

“It’s such an important organization, especially thinking about the female custodians and the articles we’ve seen posted about sexual assault,” said Maloney. “What I am able to offer the members of the guard through the House of Hope is an opportunity to meet me, not to give their name, and just tell me what ‘they have lived. I can discuss the law with them because many victims do not know if what happened to them is against the law. And some victims, when they know the law, are ready to initiate criminal proceedings. “

Cornell du Holly said female veterans are twice as likely to kill themselves as their male counterparts. But she said female veterans are also more resistant to PTSD and more likely to accept help and work with support systems to develop ways to manage their symptoms.

“So if we fill that gap, if we provide these resources to our female veterans, I think this could be a pretty amazing demographic to serve,” said Holly’s Cornell. “To be able to offer this center, to provide them with that supports, to provide them with a safe place where they don’t have to worry about privacy issues or repercussions. I think this could be a model for future centers across the country. It’s a niche that’s missing in our community.


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