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

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

One of the organization’s new executive director’s first priorities is to offer the home’s resources to female veterans and women now serving in the armed forces who might have suffered sexual abuse or harassment while in the military. They include women in the Maine National Guard, which has been the subject of recent reports detailing a spike in substantiated sexual assault cases.

While the home still plans to offer transitional housing to female veterans — one of only 10 such facilities in the country — Executive Director Lt. Rebecca Cornell du Houx said she expects the home will transition to a center offering resources and help to female veterans and their children, not just those who are homeless or in need.

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

“If a woman veteran needs something, we’ll try to support them, whether that means reconnecting them with veterans’ services or opening a bed for them,” Cornell du Houx said. “We’re shifting from only homeless female veterans to all women vets and their children, to encompass multiple other resources, including legal support, therapy, group support, substance use disorder support, whatever women veterans come in and say they need support with, we want to provide. There’s not a lot of support for women veterans out there.”


The nonprofit that runs the home, which is at 8 Summer St. in Augusta, began a reorganization last year after its founder and former executive director, Martha St. Pierre, left the organization. As part of that change, the remaining leaders of the organization stopped taking in female veterans at the home, until they had time to reorganize.

Four women staying at the home then who didn’t want to leave at the time have since found new and more permanent housing with help from House of Hope, Cornell du Houx said.

Cornell du Houx, who holds a master’s degree in clinical social work, has served in the Maine National Guard for 18 years and now serves as a lieutenant and a behavioral health officer for the guard, stepped in as executive director this year and said the home recently reopened and is once again able to provide temporary housing.

Now, though, no one is staying at the home because no women have expressed interest in moving in, she said.

The Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cornell du Houx, who has a full-time job outside the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope, said the organization seeks to raise money to hire someone to oversee the house and someone to serve during regular business hours as a resource coordinator to help female veterans.

For now, the house is not regularly staffed. Female veterans looking to connect for help or who seek to stay at the home should contact Cornell du Houx at 207-530-0466.


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

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

Cornell du Houx said she anticipates the organization will change its name to reflect its expanded mission, potentially to “Sisters in Arms Center,” although its board has not yet considered the change.

Sisters in Arms is also part of the name of a new support group, Strong Bonds for our Sisters in Arms, which is scheduled to have its first meeting at the home at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Cornell du Houx and Sgt. Aleigh Suffern formed the new group in the wake of recent reports of sexual assault and harassment of women within the Maine National Guard.

“If a woman veteran is assaulted or doesn’t feel safe or just wants to be with other women vets who’ll be there for her, the doors are always open for them,” Cornell du Houx said of the support group and home. “The support group is an opportunity for us to get together and connect. The experience of harassment or assault is so incredibly isolating.


“These women — a lot of them are nurses and medics — have historically saved lives. They’re some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life. Male veterans have an incredibly strong network, female veterans don’t. That’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 women at the home the benefits of her experience as a district attorney. Maloney said she will offer them the opportunity to speak with her anonymously about any questions or concerns, including whether something that happened to them is against the law and what their options are if they wish to pursue criminal charges.

“It’s such an important organization, especially thinking about female guardsmen and the articles we’ve seen published regarding sexual assault,” Maloney said. “What I’m able to offer to people in the guard through the House of Hope is an opportunity to meet with me, not give their name, and just tell me what they’ve gone through.

Maeghan Maloney, left, and Rebecca Cornell du Houx in the living room after a tour Wednesday of the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Augusta. Maloney, the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, is a new member of the home’s board, and Cornell du Houx is director of the program, which is expanding to serve all female veterans, not only those who are homeless or in need. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I can discuss the law with them, as many victims are not sure if what happened to them is against the law. And some victims, when they know the law, are ready to go ahead with criminal charges.”

Cornell du Houx said female veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as their male peers. But, she said, female veterans are also more resilient to post-traumatic stress disorder, 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 those resources to our women veterans, I feel like this could be a pretty amazing demographic to serve,” Cornell du Houx said. “To be able to provide this center, provide these supports to them, provides a place that’s safe, where they don’t have to worry about confidentiality issues or there being repercussions.

“I think this could be a model for future centers throughout the country. It’s a niche that’s missing within our community.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.