Cathy St. John, program director for the Maliseet Advocacy Center in Houlton, speaks to a guest at the center's open house on Thursday, Feb. 23. The center offers support for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assaults.

Advocacy Center holds open house

By Joe Cyr, Communications Director

HOULTON, Maine - Domestic violence and sexual assault can happen when a person least expects it, which is why the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians work diligently to offer support for victims and survivors of these preventable crimes.

To give people a better understanding of the types of services it provides, the Maliseet Advocacy Center hosted an open house event at its 690 Foxcroft Road location Thursday, Feb. 23.

A group of about 20 individuals visited the center for the open house to learn more about the services offered.

"We assist those who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence, whether they are men or women," Cathy St. John, program director for the Maliseet Advocacy Center. "We do not discriminate in that regard."

As a federally-funded program, the center provides assistance to both Native Americans and non-Natives at its center in a variety of ways. The assistance can be in the form of education to the community; shelter for those needing a safe place to stay; support groups; court advocacy; teen dating violence; and much more.

St. John said the center was unable to do much in the way of its education piece during COVID-19, but that is an element they hope to change going forward.

"We hope to pick a day where all of our community programs can come together and hold a training session," she said. "That way everyone will know what services we can offer. We want to get more information out to the public."

St. John rejoined the Maliseet Advocacy Center in December 2022, but previously served as the shelter coordinator from 2008-2019. She is joined by advocates Tawoma Martinez, who has been the community educator since 2019; and Allison Sabattis, who serves as the transitional housing/shelter coordinator since 2020.

The center has the capacity to accommodate three families in its shelter. Individuals are given assistance to come up with a transition plan that will see them obtain new living arrangements or jobs, free from any domestic violence issues.

"We just want people to know that we are here and available," St. John said. "We will help in any way we can."

During February, the center advocated for Teen Dating Awareness, while in April, it will focus on Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The center also plans to conduct a big campaign in June for Pride Month for the first time in the history of the tribe.

"We will make sure we have all the information out there that it doesn't matter what your orientation is, you can come to us for help if you are experiencing dating violence," St. John said. "We are trying to have something every month, ramping up to our big events in October in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month."

If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, contact the center at 207-532-3000 or the 24-hour crisis line at 207-532-6401.

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians may soon be hosting a new, expanded food distribution center.

Food Distribution Program could become a reality for Maliseets

By Joe Cyr, Communications Director

HOULTON, Maine - The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians may soon be able to provide even more wholesome foods to its tribal community.
The Tribe is applying for a Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) grant to provide USDA foods to income-eligible households for those living on the reservation.
Chief Clarissa Sabattis, Tribal Grant Writer Rosa McNally and Agriculturalist Justin Kobylarz of the Houlton Band of Maliseets joined Janet Lola, director for the Passamaquoddy Indian Township food distribution center, and Tony Newall, warehouse coordinator, in touring the Indian Township center to see first-hand what is needed to run such an operation.
Many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores.
The Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administers FDPIR at the federal level. The program is administered locally by either Indian Tribal Organizations or an agency of a state government.
The new program would also provide individuals with a larger amount of food than the current SNAP guidelines allow for.
Some of the goals for this program are to:
Reduce food insecurity
Improve nutrition and wellness
Improve food quality
Increase access to quality food
Reduce obesity
Educate Tribal Citizens on nutrition.
Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under FDPIR. USDA purchases and ships USDA Foods, selected from a list of available foods, to the ITOs and state agencies. These administering agencies store and distribute the foods, determine applicant eligibility, and provide nutrition education to recipients. USDA provides the administering agencies with funds for program administrative costs.