Shannon Battle-Bragg (front, center) cuts the ribbon during an open house at Inspiring Hope Haven for Women, the firstst women's recovery home in Aroostook. Surrounding Battle-Bragg (in front, left to right) are Inspiring Hope advisory board members Ruth Hood, Jann Jackson and Meghan Oberry. Pictured in back are Maine Sen. Troy Jackson (left) and Mary Kate Barbosa, board vice president for the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican & News

CARIBOU, Maine — When women in recovery from substance use disorder step into Inspiring Hope Haven for Women, residence manager Shannon Battle-Bragg wants them to know that they won’t go through the journey alone.

Battle-Bragg, who has been in recovery for three years, is one of many people responsible for turning an old farmhouse in Caribou into Aroostook’s first recovery house for women.

Though a recovery house for men had previously opened in the city, the nearest such programs for women were located in Bangor and Machias. For a rural area like Aroostook County, the opening of a women’s house marks a crucial step in increasing people’s access to recovery services.

Even with some bedroom and exterior renovations still needed at the house, Battle-Bragg said that she has already heard from many women interested in starting their recovery journeys.

“Today was our first day open,” Battle-Bragg said, during an open house on Dec. 2. “One woman moved in today and another wants to come this weekend.”

Inspiring Hope contains seven bedrooms, six for women in recovery and another for Battle-Bragg. Though the length of each woman’s stay will vary, all are required to attend four support group meetings per week, find a sponsor and recovery coach and complete the 12-step program.

All women will have access to community resources such as workforce development and rent relief through Aroostook County Action Program, coaching services through Recovery Aroostook and mental health services through Aroostook Mental Health Center.

Having a safe, supportive place to live while recovering will help the women create structured routines as they find employment, seek educational and training opportunities and work toward a path of long-term health and wellness, Battle-Bragg said.

“Addiction is a life, and so is recovery,” she said. “There are a lot of changes you have to make, but I want these women to know that they’re not alone and that they don’t have to be alone.”

Inspiring Hope has been in the making for more than a year and became reality thanks to partnerships with the Caribou-based Center for the Advancement of Rural Living, Recovery Aroostook and several local churches, as well as USDA loans and SAMSA’s Building Communities of Recovery Grant.

“We’re blessed that so many people want to make Caribou a recovery-friendly community,” said Kristen Henry, community engagement coordinator for CARL’s Building Communities of Recovery program.

Battle-Bragg and the home’s community partners expect that Inspiring Hope could launch other recovery homes throughout Aroostook County. The need for stable housing and resources is especially high, given the increased number of overdose-related ambulance calls occurring in the region, she said.

“When people see these women out in the community, they’re going to realize that recovery is possible,” Battle-Bragg said.