Rockland to consider reviews for group homes

By Stephen Betts | Jun 24, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts This home at 215 Talbot Ave. is proposed to house former prisoners.

Rockland — The furor from neighbors over a proposal to house former prisoners upon their release at a Talbot Avenue home has spurred a proposed ordinance to require city review of such group homes.

Councilor Valli Geiger has sponsored the ordinance that will face preliminary review Monday evening June 24. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

"This proposed ordinance is not an attempt to prevent group homes, but to require that same city oversight required for boarding houses and short-term rentals: annual permit, community engagement, inspection and neighborhood notification and input before an occupancy permit is issued," Geiger said Sunday, June 23.

Geiger said she attended a prisoner re-entry group meeting on Thursday evening.

"Kathryn Matlack was there. She refused to share any information, except to say she was negotiating with the neighbors about a meeting," Geiger said.

Matlack created Freedom Path LLC, which purchased 215 Talbot Ave. in Rockland June 3.

Numerous residents of Talbot Avenue spoke out at the June 10 meeting of the Rockland City Council, both concerned about having recently released prisoners moving into the home, but also for the lack of notice from Matlack. Neighbors only learned of the plan after the house had been bought by Freedom Path.

Matlack, a Camden resident, issued a brief statement June 11 about the project, but said she was not prepared to talk about why there had been no notifications to neighbors before she purchased the property.

She said June 11 that hundreds of men get released from prison each year and they are already our neighbors but we are not aware. She said these men are in need of housing, transportation and other support, pointing out that housing is incredibly hard for them to find.

Matlack said at that time she was trying to arrange for a meeting with the community and was trying to find facilitators for a respectful and safe meeting.

The home had been owned by Genevieve Sprinkle of Portland, who had received a city permit in 2017 to use the home as a short-term rental. The house has 14 rooms, including four bedrooms, according to city assessment records.

City councilors were receptive at the June 10 meeting to considering action to meet the concerns of residents, including considering a moratorium.

Matlack told the city's code officer in an email earlier this month that the plan is to have a live-in manager and to begin taking in residents in mid-July.

"Unity House is committed to working closely with probation officers and other social service providers in order to ensure that we are proactively addressing the substance abuse, education, employment, mental health and criminal justice issues confronting each individual resident," she stated.

People convicted of sex offenses or arson will not be accepted into the program, she stated. People with "intense" mental health or substance abuse problems also will not be qualified for the program, she stated in the email.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Katie Drinkwater | Jun 24, 2019 16:58

Posted by Dee Urquhart.  Trudy Black, the community is full of thieves and pedophiles that blend in and we probably pass by daily.  Those are who I'd be more concerned about.

Posted by: Knight Marine Service | Jun 24, 2019 15:44

This is Trudy Black....and what if they don't change !    Are you going to wait and have children harmed, or your house broken into....not the place for a half way house....

Posted by: Bruce Hodsdon | Jun 24, 2019 14:23

I attended the same meeting as Ms Geiger. My recollection is that Ms Matlack wants to meet with neighbors to discuss her plans.  They had not agreed to meet at the time of the meeting. The meeting was not to discuss her plans, and she did not come prepared to speak about them. The  neighbors have every right to be concerned and to have answers. Ms Matlack has every right to have time to prepare her plans before presenting them. Time to take a deep breath  and relax. Let the process work.

Posted by: Debra Damon | Jun 24, 2019 08:28

Kathryn I think this is a wonderful idea to help inmates, whether female or male, to come back into society with help for housing, job opportunities, transportation, etc. I know it is scary for neighbors but these people want a chance to change their lives and be respected in the community and they can't do that without help. Portland, Windham, South Portland, Westbrook and other areas, have many of these type homes their goal is to transition Men and Women back into society, to help them not be repeat offenders. Would I allow a home like this beside where I live, YES. These men and women lost their way to drugs, grew up and homes without positive guidance. We as a society can either pay for them while they are in jail, or help them get a new start on life by giving them a helping hand, so that they come productive in their life and support themselves. My understanding is that these men and women who will live in the homes are recovering Addicts or Alcoholics, who want to change their lives but need help doing it. We as a community should be looking at the whole thing as a family coming together to help them. They can't change without our help.

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