A Bangor property that served as a boarding home for women for more than 130 years will soon become the 11th residence for an organization that offers housing for people recovering from addiction.
Fresh Start Sober Living purchased the King’s Daughters Home at 89 Ohio St. for an undisclosed amount on July 1. The building will become “Andrew’s House,” named for Fresh Start Sober Living’s first resident, Andrew Chalila, who died in November 2021, said Scott Pardy, Fresh Start’s founder.
Though the boarding home’s sale means the end of a source of affordable housing for women, it expands the area’s housing stock for people in recovery. Even with the addition, however, Pardy said he’s continuing to look for more sober living residences. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever meet the demand as Maine’s opioid addiction crisis has worsened in recent years, and Penobscot County has seen a disproportionate share of the state’s overdose deaths.
“I’m sure there’s a saturation point, but I don’t know what that is yet,” Pardy said. “We’ll keep doing what we can until we can’t do it anymore.”
The new location adds 10 to 13 beds, bringing the organization’s housing capacity to 85 people across its 11 locations, nine in Bangor and two in Brewer, Pardy said.
The King’s Daughters Home approached Pardy about buying the home after years of struggling to fill it and keep it afloat.
“In the early years, there would be hundreds of women that stayed every year,” said Linda Allen, president of the King’s Daughters Home managing board. “In more recent years, we probably had 25 to 30 women annually, but at our lowest, we had maybe four or five residents in a year.”
When Allen joined the board in the 1980s, she said 14 women lived in the home, and there was a waitlist to move in. In recent decades, most residents were students from local colleges or women just beginning their careers.
Just two women lived in the home over the past year, Allen said. Only one, a nursing student, lived there at the time of the sale.
“The mission of the home has become obsolete, and we felt this was the right time to consider other ways to help women,” Allen said.
Fresh Start Sober Living was an appealing next owner because the home is set up for communal living, Allen said. The King’s Daughters Home is also next door to Fresh Start Sober Living’s first location, which opened in October 2018.
The King’s Daughters Home was founded in 1891 in a rented house at 35 Columbia St. It was managed by women from all 14 churches in Bangor.
The home had just one resident when it opened, but that soon ballooned and the residence moved to a new house at 18 Middle St. in February 1894. During its first four years, 500 girls and women stayed at the home, some for only a night and others for periods up to a year, according to the organization’s website.
The home moved its final location at 89 Ohio St., donated by Thomas Upham Coe, in 1905.
Pardy said he jumped at the chance to purchase the home because he knew it was already organized for communal living and was well maintained. The 1865 Victorian home also has a large kitchen and living room where Pardy plans to host holiday celebrations for residents.
“Not everybody has a place to go on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.
Most Fresh Start Sober Living residents have a private bedroom, though there are some doubles. Pardy said residents can stay for as long as they want, and some have been with the group since its inception. On average, residents stay for nine months to a year, Pardy said, though some don’t last a week.
Fresh Start’s rooms are usually full, and Pardy receives five to 20 housing applications per week. He has a backlog of hundreds of people seeking housing.
Pardy, who is in long-term recovery himself, founded Fresh Start Sober Living in 2018 after volunteering at the Penobscot County Jail, where he oversaw recovery meetings. He watched the same handful of people strive to maintain their sobriety, he said, but when they were released from jail, they’d wind up on the streets because they didn’t have a safe place to live.
They’d wind up in jail again soon enough, and the cycle would continue, Pardy said. The revolving door frustrated him, so Pardy began Fresh Start Sober Living to help those in recovery stay sober and give them somewhere safe to stay.
Now that the King’s Daughters Home property has changed hands, Allen said the group is exploring ways to continue serving women in the Bangor area that don’t involve providing housing. The group may establish a fund at the Maine Community Foundation with the proceeds from the sale and the remainder of their endowment.
“At this point, there’s no one offering the same kind of service in Bangor,” she said. “Women will have to rely more on apartment or school dormitory living, which is probably more expensive.”