Dee Clarke, who grew up in Boston, was forced to be a prostitute on and off from the time she was 12 but she didn’t completely escape that life until she was 20.

It’s a hard place to come back from.

“You have to have some place to actually undo it. You can’t undo it alone,” said Clarke, now an advocate with Homeless Voices for Justice in Portland. “There’s a lot of unpeeling of the layers, the horrendous things, the way of living to get through it.”

Biddeford-based St. Andre Home plans to open a special residential treatment and counseling facility to help women recover from the emotional and physical trauma of prostitution.

A group of artists and advocates are teaming up to help fund the facility with a benefit concert Wednesday at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

Headlining Wednesday’s event is country musician Steve Azar. Azar wrote a song titled “The Sky is Falling,” which describes a woman’s despair because of her life of prostitution. A music video that accompanies the song was filmed and directed by Waynflete senior Mike Rodway. Organizers also are collecting items needed for the shelter, including toiletries and linens.

The state’s first human trafficking safe house was made possible by a $400,000 grant from the Next Generation Foundation last December. However, providing 24-hour staffing, counseling and medical care is costly, roughly $2,500 per woman each month, said Diane Madden, marketing and development director for St. Andre Home.

“These are ladies that are so victimized, so traumatized, they need a safe place where they can heal, receive treatment and start their lives,” Madden said.

The safe house will serve five to eight women at a time and will be located in a remote part of the state at an undisclosed location so that the pimps who have victimized the women can’t find them, Madden said. She expects women will stay there for nine to 12 months at a time.

South Portland police Detective Sgt. Steve Webster, one of the organizers of the concert, said there is a clear and growing need for a place for women rescued from trafficking to get help.

“The few of us who have been dealing with these cases for a number of years, we would get these victims in the middle of the night and bring them into a local hotel where we knew they were safe,” said Webster, who works with the Not Here Justice in Action Network. “The problem was, what do we do with them now. There was no place we could bring them where they could get the services and individual attention they need.”

Domestic violence shelters have provided some assistance and will continue to provide referrals, along with law enforcement and homeless shelters, Madden said.

The women will likely have problems with addiction, mental health and no health insurance or job skills, requiring intensive intervention.

“When a woman is in a position to actually get out of the world of commercial exploitation, she needs the same things we need every day – food, shelter, clothing,” said Cumberland County Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam, a member of the Greater Portland Coalition Against Sex Trafficking & Exploitation. “Because she’s also been subjected to trauma every day of her working life, she needs the kind of services that a place like St. Andre house can provide.”

St. Andre Home was started 75 years ago by Good Shepherd Sisters from Quebec. It operates residences to help pregnant women and new mothers learn life skills and offers adoption services, parenting classes and play groups.

St. Andre Home is a private nonprofit Catholic organization, though it offers services to women regardless of their religion, ethnicity, background or ability to pay. For more information about the concert, go to: and for more on St. Andre Home go to