The Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope is a transitional home for homeless female veterans and their children located at 8 Summer St. in Augusta. As a volunteer with this organization, I have learned a good deal about homeless female veterans from the executive director and founder of the home, Martha Everatt St. Pierre; the other volunteers; and board members.

According to St. Pierre, while there are four well-established transitional houses for male veterans in Maine, the BARHH will be the only home for female veterans in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and will be the only veterans’ home that allows children in all of New England when it officially opens in the next few weeks. She further states that nationally, female veterans are the fastest-growing portion of the homeless population. According to research conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013, there were approximately 14,000 homeless female veterans in the U.S. Maine does not have an accurate count of its homeless female veterans. By most accounts, the efforts of individual citizens and faith-based organizations seem to be the primary sources of support for this population of homeless women.

The BARHH’s mission is “to establish a support system for female veterans that creates a feeling of community by providing housing for the veterans and their children, aiding in access of services, and finding opportunities for training, education and employment to achieve independence.” Program components at the BARHH will include fiscal responsibility and accountability, budget management, housekeeping, employment exploration and preparation. An onsite social worker has been interviewed and accepted to administer program components for one-on-one counseling, group therapy, art therapy, creative writing therapy, and other therapies for treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Restoring self-esteem is a key component in any recovery program, and the programs at the BARHH are directed at preparing these women to not only to be self-sufficient and independent again, but to also remind them that they should be honored for the sacrifices they made during their service to our nation.

There are still many open opportunities for volunteers to come to the BARHH and use their creative skills in assisting residents in such things as cooking classes, interviewing skills, interpersonal relationship skills, time management, and any other areas that volunteers may be experienced in. In the spring there will be an area on the property where the residents can plant a vegetable garden. Gardening can be a very therapeutic experience for the residents, and the food grown will be a welcome contribution to the house food supply. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the director at www.betsyannrosshouseofhope.org.

The journey for the BARHH has not been an easy one; there have been many obstacles and barriers to overcome. There are some in the community who have fought to prevent the home from being allowed to exist in their community. This is a good example of the phenomenon of “NIMBY,” or Not In My Back Yard. Many people in our communities want societal problems to be solved, but they do not want the process to involve them or to take place near them. The director of the home once shared with me an incident that took place between her and one of the elected officials in Augusta. This elected official, who shall remain nameless, but not shameless, told the director of the BARHH that she did not want the BARHH in her community because she did not want those kind of “transient” people in her community. The director was rather agitated, to say the least, that these veterans who served their country and were willing to risk their lives for all of us were looked down upon by this official as nothing more than “transients.”

As a veteran and a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine, I appreciate grass-roots organizations like the BARHH and desire not only to help with their goals of assisting those in need but to also counter the negative efforts of individuals and organizations that fight against such processes as getting veterans the benefits that they have honorably earned. With the current political forces we now have at work in our society, helping veterans and others get the benefits they have earned will more than likely get more difficult with each passing year.

Andrew Breault is a resident of South China.

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