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Friendship House

Issue 28

A Safe Haven for Men in Need of a Friend

The Friendship House was founded by Louise and Claude Montgomery in 1985. Louise and her “prayer partner” Alison Kelley felt their higher power was leading them to open Friendship House. In response to that calling, Louise took their “rainy day fund,” with Claude’s okay, to purchase the original home to provide a safe place for those living without shelter in the community. The home soon transitioned to become a haven for men who were recovering from SUD. Some years later, the Friendship House moved to its larger location, 390 Lincoln Street, Portland, Maine.

In January 2012, Herb Blake was offered the job of Executive Director. “I think the Board liked that I came with both management skills and a Pastoral degree,” said Herb. He has been in ministry for many decades and worked with Shaw’s Supermarket in management for over 20 years.

The Friendship House is a MARR-certified residence for up to 15 men who are over 18 years old. In the spirit of the house’s founding, men without resources are not denied a space. “It is a very supportive living community for men in need of a long-term housing solutions who are in recovery. We do befriend all of our residents as we get them started on a path to sobriety,” said Herb. “We are privileged to offer a place for people who don’t have resources or the financial ability to pay for a space in the house.” Also in keeping with its history, The Friendship House has a non-denominational, faith-based approach.

As a non-profit, Friendship House is dependent on fundraisers, donations and contributions from residents once they are working. “We do have what we call resident contributions. Once a resident is far enough along to be working, we ask for a modest contribution,” commented Herb. “It’s really a help for them to get in a pattern of paying that contribution monthly for when they are in their own place.” Herb said though there is no requirement to work, about 75% of the residents do so.

A few years ago, The Friendship House hosted a meeting of first responders and residents. “It was a great experience because the first responders could put a face on substance use,” said Herb. “They could understand more about responding to crisis situations. And, on the side of our residents, it helped them see that when there is a medical crisis, the police are not showing up to press charges against them. They want to keep them from dying. They want to get them to safe places, often through the OPTIONS program.”

Herb pointed out a particularly poignant moment. “I just can’t call it a coincidence. I think it happened for a reason. In that meeting with first responders, one of our residents shared that he had overdosed in a motel in South Portland and the police had come. An officer administered Narcan and brought him back,” said Herb. “That particular police officer was there at the meeting. He stood up and said ‘You have made my day. I responded to that and you’re still alive, and now you are thriving in recovery.’”

Herb recalls one young man who came to Friendship House at 25 years old. “Because of the background he grew up in, he developed substance use disorder at a very young age, and he had incurred some pretty serious charges that really limited his options anywhere,” said Herb. “He actually earned the distinction of becoming our longest tenured resident. I speak of him because he is now coming up on 10 years of sobriety. We’re especially proud of him because he had very few options. He was actually sitting in jail when I believe a family member or close friend reached out to us. So we’re just thrilled to see him doing so well.”

Our goal is to provide a safe avenue to sobriety and a full life for every one of our residents.

Herb takes satisfaction in seeing a resident gain sobriety, get a job, get their license back, and start getting their financial affairs back in order.

Beth Ellis D’Ovidio
Beth Ellis D’Ovidio
Beth D’Ovidio is a public relations/communications professional with extensive experience writing compelling content for PR, marketing, and social media. She has 20 years of experience in developing and implementing successful media strategies, plans and campaigns.

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