I'm very pleased to announce a new partnership that we've been seeking for over a year.  Eliot Community Human Services will be setting up a group home for six teenage girls in the church house during the Christmas break.  The program and the girls will have a wonderful new home next to a caring congregation.  We've made a five year commitment that could be extended. 

A little history is in order.  The former parsonage/church house has been a group home, mostly for refugees.  From 2001-2005 it was a home for 8 of the "lost boys" from war-torn Sudan.  For about three years it was a group home for girls also run by Lutheran Social Services.  After the previous group home for refugee children from Central and South America closed we found no agencies with such programs to move in and continue this good work of resettlement.  Nearby Mclean Hospital expressed an interest in a group treatment center for police officers but their timeline to move in got to be too long.  We shifted our focus to affordable housing and pursued extensive renovations to meet regulations, which took until last spring.  But then when it came time to find a suitable family through local agencies we realized this rather large house was still better suited for use as a group home.  We began conversations with Eliot this summer and were fortunate that the church house could be put to good use by providing one of our church families with a space to live as their home was renovated this fall.

Eliot is a private non-profit human service agency providing a full range of supports and treatment options to some of the most vulnerable people in the state.  In many ways its mission is similar to Ascentria Care Alliance, formerly Lutheran Social Services.  Their clients range in age from children to the elderly and they also work with those struggling with substance abuse, developmental disabilities and homelessness. 

The program is funded by the Department of Children and Family services.  Eliot has ten such group homes in their system.  The home at St. Paul will have a mission with the acronym STAR which stands for stabilization, treatment and reunification; a rather clinical way of saying these girls will come in to get the help they need with the goal of reuniting with their families.  The house will have a large staff on duty 24/7 and directed by Janet Mendez.  It will be a caring and loving place under some challenging circumstances in these girls lives. 

Some other group homes are located near churches and in the new year we will meet with the staff to explore how we can help with appropriate educational and spiritual support.  The financial arrangements are about the same as they have been, putting the house to good use at a little below market rate.  I am grateful for all the staff and members of St. Paul who have worked and prayed to find a good use for the church house and for this day when we can officially share the good news. 

Faithfully yours, Ross