Case Worker Aaron Carlson stands in the kitchen of a newly renovated site-based transitional living apartment for youths. Sydney Richelieu / The Courier

Preble Street’s Transitional Living Program for youths, called First Place, has opened its first site-based program in downtown Biddeford.

Open to young people ages 16-24, who are currently experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, the Transitional Living Program (TLP) site gives participants the chance to live in apartments of varying sizes with access to support every day.

For many youths, First Place offers them their very first apartment. For others, it can be a way they transition from eviction and other scenarios.

In April, First Place moved their first residents into the new site-based building in Biddeford. The city saw a need for a program like this, especially for young people, Preble Street Director of Teen Housing Amanda Morais told the Courier.

“We wrap around them with case work,” Morais said. “We have case managers and program staff available even for our scattered site folks every day of the week, but we can provide a higher level of support for the folks who live in the building.”

According to last year’s point-in-time count data from MaineHousing, about 1,500 people experiencing homelessness in 2023 were under the age of 24.


Many of those experiencing homelessness have reported having adverse childhood experiences, such as trauma, that led them to shelters, hospitals, and even incarceration.

“The amount of people that Teen Services serves is always growing,” Morais said.

The program aims to help young people transition from scenarios like homelessness, hospitals, tumultuous family situations, and incarceration at Long Creek Correctional Facility, a juvenile facility in Portland.

The goal is for youths to transition into a voucher or independent apartment outside of the program. Then, for up to a year, First Place will continue support with what they call “aftercare.”

Preble Street is listed on the lease to help prevent and mediate evictions if necessary, Teen Housing Supervisor Hannah Ulcickas told the Courier.

“It’s as much of a holistic approach as we can make it,” Ulcickas said.


The number of young people experiencing homelessness is increasing year after year. Many of those facing possible homelessness or tumultuous family situations are dealing with difficult situations like teen parenting, abusive relationships, and substance abuse.

Dealing with mental health and trauma from situations like these can be a battle, Case Worker Aaron Carlson said.

One of the biggest issues this can create for youths is building community in a positive way.

“Being able to find your people and do that in a positive way is a really hard thing,” Carlson said. “I think a lot of the youth experience a tremendous amount of isolation.”

Through community programs and even roommate living arrangements, First Place hopes to foster a sense of community and support, which can be difficult to achieve for youths who are struggling to survive.

Shifting from survival mode is an identity change, Carlson said, and it can be hard for these youths to get their foot out the door.


“It’s an overhaul of everything you’ve been doing,” Carlson said.

Through intensive case work, Carlson helps youths in the First Place TLP work on their life skills, goals, and on housing stability. He also helps participants apply for jobs or finish school, work on food insecurity, and apply for a driver’s license.

“Really, it’s whatever they want to work on,” Carlson said.

For those experiencing substance abuse issues, First Place helps participants find and enroll in substance abuse programs if necessary, and outlines lease agreements that prohibit the use of substances in certain ways.

But it’s not judgmental – First Place is understanding of the reasons for substance abuse among youths experiencing traumatic situations, and they work with them.

“Some of the youth we work with have used substances as their primary coping skills since they were like 13 years old, and then they get out of Long Creek at 18 or 19 and the environment is different,” Morais said. “Of course people are going to reach for a coping skill that has worked in the past.”

Currently, First Place’s Biddeford location is housing five people, with room for one more when a final apartment is finished.

For those in need of assistance now, Preble Street also offers the Preble Street Teen Center and the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter in Portland.

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