"I still can't get over what a miracle Martha's Cottage was for me. You told me to just take each day as it came and promised that I'd feel more comfortable in that safe place soon. And, I did!"
Martha’s Cottage is the first transitional home for older victims of abuse in Maine and one of very few such housing options in the country. The renovations of the house – whose exact location is not advertised to protect its residents – were funded through the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence against Women.
We provide free transitional housing and supportive services to older Maine residents who are victims of abuse and who are in need of services to live free from abuse and mistreatment. Our cottages are located in Southern, Midcoast and Northern Maine.
The goal of this program is to help clients leave unsafe situations and transition into long-term safe housing of their choice.
The house was named after Martha, who endured decades of abuse from her husband and shared her story to benefit others. This video chronicles the gradual progression of the abuse: the control, the isolation from family and friends, the constant threats and intimidation, and finally, Martha finding the courage to reach out for help.
Meet our new Transitional Housing Program Coordinator, Emily Berrill
1. What will you be doing as our new Transitional Housing Program Coordinator?
I am thrilled to dive into my role as the first Transitional Housing Program Coordinator of Martha’s Cottage as it is our signature program at the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine (EAIME). Since the launch of Martha’s Cottage in 2009, EAIME has fostered its growth and expansion to multiple cottage locations in Maine to provide transitional housing services for older adults experiencing abuse.
As Program Coordinator, my role is broken into three areas: Client Support and Advocacy, Outreach, and Program Coordination. I am available to work with clients as they enter Martha’s Cottage to develop individualized service plans to help them achieve their goals and find permanent housing. I will lead EAIME outreach efforts to educate our communities about Martha’s Cottage and create and sustain partnerships to expand the resource connections for clients. Lastly, I will oversee the coordination of our internal staff and external partners to ensure our clients have the support they need to live the lives they choose.
2. You spent the last 2 years as an Advocate with our Elder Service Connections Program. How do you think this position has prepared you to work with our Martha’s Cottage clients?
Over the last two years, I have had the honor of witnessing the resilience and strength of our Elder Service Connections clients as they navigate the circumstances life has presented them. The greatest lesson they have taught me is the power of autonomy and self-determination. I’ve learned that as we age, our lived experiences, the love we’ve given, the loss we’ve seen, our successes and failures, our proudest moments, and our most challenging decisions, all remain true regardless of how our bodies and environments change. A person is so much more than the circumstances that lead them to the need for services.
Above all, the core of the work I’ve done is to uphold my client’s right to choose, regardless of what others might want for them, and help them to preserve what they hold to be most important. They have allowed me to listen as they define what they want their lives to look like and support them by working together to access the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals. I think it is beautiful that the lessons and values our Elder Service Connections clients have instilled in me will carry on in my work with our Martha’s Cottage clients.
3. What are you most excited about as our new Transitional Housing Program Coordinator?
There are so many things to be excited about! This new role feels like an important opportunity to advocate for our clients on both individual and community levels. We are very fortunate in Maine to have awesome domestic violence agencies that work hard to provide resources for older Mainers. Yet, there is still a societal misconception that domestic and sexual violence only happens to younger people and that there cannot be violence and abuse within relationships between older people. Because of this, older survivors are often left out of the conversation, leaving little support and education for them to access when they need it. During my time as Program Coordinator, I hope to dispel those misconceptions to destigmatize abuse in later life so that those who need resources feel empowered to access them. Most of all, I am excited to meet the people who will come through Martha’s Cottage and participate in their journey in whatever way feels right for them.
4. What services will you be providing as far as outreach and education about our Martha’s Cottage Program?
At EAIME, we believe that elder justice is holistic and every community member plays a role. Martha’s Cottage cannot exist without the support and partnership of our communities in Maine. The purpose of our outreach services is to spread awareness and education about Martha’s Cottage so that individuals who are experiencing abuse or are working with someone experiencing abuse will know about this resource. The other reason why we provide outreach services is to create partnerships throughout Maine. This is incredibly important for paving the way to resource access for our Martha’s Cottage clients as well as finding ways we can collaborate to meet the needs of other organizations. The solution to ending abuse is much larger than EAIME alone and requires all of us to come together to create communities that have readily available resources for those experiencing abuse, and opportunities for prevention for those who may be at risk of abuse.
Outreach and education services are flexible to meet the needs of those who are interested and can come in the form of a phone call, an email exchange, and/or a program presentation for your organization or business. Anyone can reach out to learn more about Martha’s Cottage including nonprofits, businesses, faith communities, age-friendly community groups, banks, doctor’s offices, law enforcement, etc. Martha’s Cottage serves the entire state of Maine so outreach services are not dependent on location.
5. How can someone reach you to schedule an information session or to learn more about our Martha’s Cottage Program?
For more information, please contact me at (207) 844-1176 or by email. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you!
Martha's Story: A Lifetime of Walking on Eggshells
Touching and intensely personal, this is Martha’s Story of "emancipation" from Jim, her abusive husband. The video chronicles the gradual progression of the abuse–the control, the isolation from family and friends, the constant threats and intimidation and finally, Martha’s finding the courage to reach out for help.
In her own words and memories, Martha’s hindsight on her 51 years of abuse is hard won and honest, and as much a catharsis for herself as a clarion call for other abuse victims to realize that there is a way out with the hope and the opportunity to begin again.
"We were very moved by Martha's Story and think this is a great contribution toward educating others."
"A must see for healthcare, legal, social, and protective service providers."
Michelle Zallar, National Clearing House on Abuse in Later Life
This video is available for purchase to use as a training resource through Terra Nova Films. Information can be found here.
Learn more about our Martha's Cottage Program, and Priscilla's story of transformation.
Downeast Magazine featured our transitional housing program in October 2016.