Johnny Clark, second from right, talks Friday with the crew working on a recovery and reentry home for women in Sabattus. Justin Roy, left, Bill Noddin, second from left, and Heath Bernard, right, are working on the house at 143 Pleasant Hill Road that will be home to women in recovery. Clark is the founder of A Hand Up, an organization that provides housing for individuals with substance use disorder transitioning out of prison and into the community. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – Two new residences are coming to the Lewiston area, adding at least 20 additional beds for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder.

Johnny Clark, the owner and executive director of A Hand Up, a recovery-focused reentry home on Bartlett Street in Lewiston, said Friday that construction and renovations on a multiunit apartment building in Lewiston and a women’s residence in Sabattus are wrapping up.

Both residences will be operated under Second Chances, a limited liability corporation Clark started.

Clark said he’s working with an 11-member board, all of whom work with other recovery-focused organizations in Maine.

The multi-unit building on Bates Street in Lewiston will be called Second Chances: Family First and will be family-focused, Clark said.

“We’re just trying to create a safe space for people in recovery and help with reunification with individuals that have been court-involved, have lost (custody of) their kids recently and/or are in that kind of phase where if they don’t get it together, they can lose them permanently,” he said.


Johnny Clark stands Friday in front of the Second Chances: Family First house on Bates Street in Lewiston. The apartment building will house parents in recovery from substance use disorder and their children. Clark is the founder of A Hand Up, an organization that provides housing for individuals with substance use disorder transitioning into the community. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Although it is an apartment building, Second Chances: Family First will still operate like many other recovery residences, with residential aides who live at the residence and services available on-site.

The goal is to get individuals in recovery, provide them with resources and programming “to try to get them back on their feet so they can get their kids back,” Clark said, “and then provide them a safe space where they can live with their children and their families.”

Substance use disorder was a contributing factor in about half of all instances where a child is removed from a home, according to the 2022 child welfare annual report from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services.

“Opioid response is an area with significant implications for child welfare,” the report states. “OCFS’ staff frequently witness the impact of parental substance use disorder on children and families…”

There were 2,453 children in state custody as of Jan. 1, 2023, 314 of whom are from Androscoggin County, according to DHHS. That translates to about 14 children for every 1,000 residents under the age of 18.

Somerset County had the highest percentage as of January, with about 21 for every 1,000 children in DHHS custody.


“Most clearly right now, there is a need for an increase in mental health and substance use services for adults and children in Maine,” the Child Welfare Services Ombudsman stated in its most recent annual report.

The number of Mainers who died from a drug overdose last year outpaced records set in 2021. There were 715 confirmed and suspected fatal overdoses last year, according to data from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.

There were 9,435 reported non-fatal overdoses, though that number is likely higher since not all overdoses are reported.

The Bates Street building has five three-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units. Clark said some final work was being done to make sure everything was not just up to code but “better than code” and should be ready to open in about four months.

The building’s owner, Able Management, also owns the building on Bartlett Street where A Hand Up is located and a building on Oxford Street where the Travas Collins House for Recovery, a residence operated by Recovery Connections of Maine, is located.

Clark and a former business partner opened A Hand Up last summer. The former boarding house was converted into an 18-bed recovery home with a communal kitchen and dining space splitting the men’s and women’s units and meeting and games spaces in the basement. They have two new residents coming in soon, which will bring them to full capacity, Clark said Friday.


He said the Sabattus house “kind of just fell in my lap.”

A former landlord of his owns the property and was willing to work out a deal on the lease if Clark covered the labor costs.

The 10-bed women’s residence on Pleasant Hill Road is a new building and Clark expects it to be move-in ready in about a month. Many of the people working on the house, including the contractor, foreman and a few carpenters, are residents at A Hand Up, Clark said.

A few weeks ago, Clark set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for construction and labor costs.

“We’re trying to get through construction and if I rely on my own dime, it’ll take forever,” he said.

Roopers bottle redemption center in Lewiston recently ran a bottle drive to support them, and Clark said he and his partners are looking to raise $10,000 to help them finish construction and cover other start-up costs, including staffing.

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