This historic Gorham mansion, once a college fraternity house, is the new home of Courage House.

 

At the historic McLellan mansion on School Street in Gorham, Rob Korobkin, left, and Sean Crothers, will help former prisoners transition into society.

Starting in June, Rob Korobkin, left, and Sean Crothers will work with up to 15 men recently released from prison at their new re-entry home at 24 School St. in Gorham. 

GORHAM — The new tenant of an old mansion is reaching out to the community this week to soothe opposition and offer details of his plans to use the landmark as a re-entry home for former prisoners.

Rob Korobkin of Portland, 32, owner of Maine Reentry Services, will operate Courage House in the mansion, a former college fraternity house at 24 School St.

It’s a residential program “for guys getting out of prison,”  Korobkin said. The men will be on probation and the residents will include “zero sex offenders,” he said. 

Beginning in June, the mansion will be home to a live-in manager and up to 15 former prisoners who want a second chance. “No one is being punished to live here,” he said.  

Sean Crothers, 52, business development director for Evergreen Recovery Healthcare in Manchester, will provide treatment and counseling to the residents.

For qualified former prisoners, the program represents an opportunity for sober living and for help and support in finding a job and reentering society, he said.

“This is about transitional living,” said Crothers, a 1992 graduate of the University of Southern Maine.

The three-story mansion in Gorham Village for 38 years housed the Sigma Nu fraternity. It sits in the town’s historic district, where the neighborhood includes homes, USM, dance schools, day cares, the Gorham Historical Society and the Gorham Arts Alliance.

Plans for Courage House surfaced earlier this month and spurred a stir through the town and on Facebook. Commenters online said, among other things, that  they didn’t want former prisoners living in the house.

In the mansion’s driveway Monday, Korobkin and Crothers listened to concerns from one upset neighbor, who declined to be identified. She appeared rankled that the town didn’t notify neighbors about Courage House and its plans, but she said, as a mother, she felt more at ease after talking with the two men.

“We’re going to do a lot to try to appease you,” Crothers told the woman.

Korobkin said,” We’re going to have the nicest house on your block.”

Vicky Lloyd of the Centre of Movement, who teaches dance classes to students in a church near the mansion, said Tuesday she doesn’t have a problem with the reentry house program.

“It’s real important not to close the door on people and their potential,” Lloyd said.

A few citizens at a Town Council meeting April 2 criticized the town officials’ handling of the issue. The town, under state law, does not regulate group homes, and Town Planner Tom Poirier said this week no town review is required.

“We treat it like a single-family house,” Poirier said.

But for transparency, Korobkin and Crothers initiated a meeting Wednesday with Gorham Police Chief Daniel Jones to discuss their plans.

Following the meeting, Jones said  Korobkin and Crothers are interested in partnering with the police department and proposed creating a citizens’ advisory board. Jones offered to provide a police officer to sit on the board.

“They jumped at the opportunity,” Jones said.

Jones said the men will carefully select residents for the program.

Korobkin said the program will work with community re-entry staffs at the various correctional facilities who will recommend potential residents. “We’re looking for people who are serious about recovering from drugs and alcohol,” he said.

The former prisoners will be required to go through an application process. Each will live at the house for between three and six months. 

The living arrangements will give Courage House residents with children the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with family after being separated.

Korobkin said the outside yard will have a basketball hoop and, looking at an evergreen tree in front of the mansion, he said the house will have a “massive” Christmas tree.

“It’s going to be family orientated, ” Korobkin said about the program.

If  residents violate rules, they will be evicted. “We’re going to work with probation,” Crothers said.

Residents will be required to have jobs. “One of the basic conditions of probation is to be employed,” Crothers said.

They also will be encouraged to volunteer in the community.

Korobkin is the landlord of a sober house in Sanford, but it is operated by another individual. He has sober residents living in his own five-bedroom home in Portland.

Crothers said he and Korobkin are both recovering alcoholics. Korobkin said he’s been sober since 2014. Crothers, who said he was once incarcerated and once had a prison ministry, has been sober for four years. He has a tattoo on an arm depicting Jesus behind bars.

 Korobkin and Crothers spotted the mansion in Gorham earlier this year. “It’s a historic site,”Korobkin said.

According to historical information provided by Julie Larry of Greater Portland Landmarks, the “Italianate-style” mansion was originally a two-story Federal period building constructed about 1812 by Samuel McLellan. His son, Lewis McLellan, enlarged it in 1860. Larry said the house is a “contributing building” in the Gorham National Register Historic District.

Sigma Nu sold the house in 2016 to Champion Properties, according to town tax records. It was subsequently deeded over on March 19 to 24 School St. LLC, according to the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. 

Now, the mansion is being converted to new life. “We’re going to help a lot of guys,” Crothers said.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 780-9089 or email [email protected]

   


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