A place to help young men released from prison

02/25/2013 3:30 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | A 24-hour support facility for homeless youths opened Monday in Riverhead.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From right, Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch executive director Thaddaeus Hill, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter on Monday during a ribbon cutting at the Right Path Home in Riverhead.

The area’s first 24-hour support facility to house young men who are former prison inmates has opened in Riverhead.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department has partnered with Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead to create Right Path Home, a new program that provides housing for men ages 17-21 who are released from the Suffolk County Department of Corrections.

The six-month program aims to help former inmates transition back into society by providing support from caseworkers and career counselors.

Right Path Home, located on Old Farm Road in Riverhead across from Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, is a 1,300-square foot house that will become a home to as many as four former inmates at once and a full-time caretaker.

Ranch administrators are in the process of finalizing a certificate of occupancy with the town.

Thaddaeus Hill, executive director of the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch — which houses abused, neglected or otherwise troubled boys and young men — said the property was donated to the ranch in 1996 and had been used to house staff. It has been vacant for the past three years, he said.

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Mr. Hill, along with Sheriff Vincent DeMarco and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday and toured the house, which has been completely remodeled. New fixtures and tiling have been added to a bathroom and kitchen space, the kitchen has stainless steel appliances and the livingroom comes complete with new couches and a flatscreen TV.

Mr. DeMarco said Right Path Home is needed because many of the youths in jail are homeless or have dysfunction families. Some of them, he said, can’t go back to the community they came from because they run the risk of hanging out with “the same people they were with when they got arrested.”

“A lot of the youth in the jail don’t have a place to go to right away when they get out of jail,” Mr. DeMarco said. “This is a wonderful opportunity.”

Mr. Walter agreed and praised Mr. DeMarco and Mr. Hill’s efforts, adding he appreciates the ranch’s approach to helping youths.

“They do it with discipline, with love, with reward and it’s a wonderful program they run for the children,” Mr. Walter said. “I’m positive this will be an overwhelmingly success.”

The remolding project started last summer, with Riverhead Building Supply and B-Marascia Construction donating labor and supplies.

B-Marascia Construction owner Brett Marascia said he volunteered because he believes the program will help troubled youths.

“Everything that they need to start a new life is here,” said Mr. Marascia, who is also the ranch’s maintenance manager.

In addition to local businesses contributing to the cause, current prison inmates Grant Mcrelli, 40, and William Fray, 38, worked on the siding, roofing, sheet rocking, painting, paneling and other construction for the house.

“It seems like a great idea and a good way to keep kids out of trouble,” Mr. Mcrelli said. “It will keep them out of jail … I would be glad to help out again.”

Mr. Fray said he was happy to volunteer his carpentry experience to the cause.

“It’s a good way to spend my time,” he said. “[Right Path Home] is important because it provides an opportunity to become well-rounded through education, fitness and religion.”

jennifer@timesreview.com