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Kathy Cleveland photo

Cheryl Beaulieu works in a neighboring office to Host Homes and Milford Mediation, two Milford-area programs that closed for good last week.

Beaulieu is in charge of Milford fuel assistance for Southern New Hamshire

Services.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Milford agencies close; teens, families lose services

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of stories examining the consequences of state budget cuts on area people and programs.

MILFORD – On Thursday, Mary Pat Jackson packed up her things and left her small homey office for the last time.

The office, on the second floor of a little white house behind the Wadleigh Library, has a kitchen table and chairs where Jackson would sit with unhappy teens and their families and help them work out their problems.

For 10 years, Jackson was the director of Host Homes, an agency that provided crisis intervention and temporary homes for teens, as well as the director of Milford Area Mediation, which helped people resolve their conflicts. Except for divorce mediation, the Host Homes and mediation services came free to Milford-area residents.

Now the two agencies are no more – victims of declining government funding and cutbacks in the state budget.

“I’ll miss the teenagers,” the 10 years have been “wonderful,” said Jackson, who is leaving to be executive director at Summerhill Assisted Living in Peterborough.

Jackson is sad to leave the job and sorry for the hundreds of teens and families who will lose the services. Host Homes offered crisis intervention and temporary homes for teens, giving them a cooling-off period. Last year the program helped about 250 teens find jobs and resolve school and family issues. Now there is not enough money to continue.

Ten years ago, Jackson’s office received $30,000 in funding from the federal government, money that filtered down through the state Department of Children Youth and Families. Every year since then, funding has been cut, and this year it was less that $15,000.

“I didn’t apply for a grant” this year, Jackson said. “There is no money out there.”

The free, confidential mediation sessions were available for couples and for tenant/landlord problems, as well as for families dealing with such issues as predelinquent behavior and drug and alcohol use. The aim of mediation is to produce solutions that are acceptable and beneficial to all those involved.

Police Chief Fred Douglas is concerned that without Host Homes and Milford Mediation, untreated teen problems will escalate into criminal behavior.

Taxpayers will be the ultimate losers, said the chief, because the loss of counseling for teens and families will mean a dramatic increase in the workload of the Police Department.

“Mary Pat was an exceptional resource for us,” he said. “She did a fabulous job of getting family members to understand each other” and saved police a lot of time, effort and expense.

Giving teenagers a cooling-off period, through Host Homes, he said, “worked fantastically well.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 21, or kcleveland@cabinet.com.