Solutions: homeless-run nonprofit in Cammbridge, MA FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 21 Feb 1999 16:28:26 -0800 (PST)

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S VIEWS, News, Alerts, Actions & Research
4,000+ ONLINE posts by or via homeless & ex-homeless people



     By Leslie Miller
     Associated Press, February 15, 1999

CAMBRIDGE, MA (AP) - It was a great day for a former cab driver when he
moved into an apartment last week after several years of homelessness.

And the guys who helped him move could relate.

Everyone who earns a paycheck from Solutions at Work - the agency who
helped - either is, or has been homeless.

The agency tries to get homeless people into permanent housing by providing
furniture, moving services, clothing and help finding jobs.

''I stand up and talk to people in the suburbs. I look at them, I sound
like them, I had a job, and I still became homeless,'' said Macy DeLong,
founder of Solutions.

DeLong founded the agency after she fell into a severe depression and lost
her job as a biologist at Harvard University. Her marriage dissolved and
she lived in the Harvard Square cemetery for nine months.

On the streets of Cambridge, she found a network of support and sharing
among the homeless. That, and medication, convinced her to dedicate herself
to removing the stigma of homelessness.

''It was eight years before I hung up my coat on a hook in a restaurant or
let go of my backpack,'' she said. ''Moving into an apartment doesn't end
it, but it gives you a door behind which you can heal.''

''Larry,'' the former cab driver whose real name is being withheld because
he asked to remain anonymous, ended up moving into senior housing last week
on a sunny afternoon with the help of Jesse Jones and Bobby Curry, workers
at Solutions.

In the morning, Jones maneuvered a large moving truck past Harvard Yard as
the radio played an Al Green tune. Bobby Curry whistled as they headed to
an apartment complex to pick up donated furniture.

Jones had been working for Digital when his 4-year-old son was killed in a
car accident. A week later, his father died.

He started drinking and taking drugs, lost both cars, his house, his credit
rating. ''I was going downhill at 100 miles per hour on a banana peel with
nothing but a brick wall at the bottom,'' he said.

Curry used to run with a gang, drink and do a lot of drugs. He couldn't pay
rent so he lived on the streets.

After years of living in dumpsters and abandoned cars, both men found their
way to the basement of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, headquarters of
Solutions at Work. Now they have roofs over their heads and jobs they
enjoy. Jones sits on Solutions' board of directors.

''I like what I'm doing and I like seeing the smile on people's faces when
we give them furniture,'' said Curry.

That morning, before they met with Larry, the two men found their way to an
apartment complex where two women in their 70s had collected sofabeds,
lamps, kitchen tables, coffee tables, mattresses and cribs for the poor.

After Curry and Jones filled the truck with the furniture, they learned one
of the women had spent months in the Netherlands after World War II, living
in a room at the Salvation Army.

The other lived with her husband's parents after they were first married
because of the  postwar housing shortage.

Their help spelled good news for Larry.

Around noon, Curry and Jones reached the furniture bank - donated basement
space in an apartment complex. Larry was there talking about the Red Sox
with three former homeless men who manage the bank's inventory.

A short, round man with an aluminum cane, Larry drove a taxi in Boston's
North End for years, but ended up on the street after he was disabled in a
car accident.

He lived in Boston shelters for several years until he found a room at the
YMCA in Cambridge.

At first, Larry was told all the furniture in the bank had been claimed,
but then Curry and Jones told him the news: they just came back from a

Larry laughed and swapped baseball trivia as Curry and Jones carried
furniture out of the truck. Larry picked out a kitchen table, a sofa, a
mattress, a print.

''If you would ask homeless people what they want, none would have said
'temporary shelter','' said Eric Lehmann, a Cornell graduate who lived in a
Long Island homeless shelter for teens for a month when he was 17, after
his mother threw him out.

He now writes grants for Solutions.

The approach shelters take to their homeless clients is all wrong, he said.

''Instead of asking 'what can you do?' they ask 'what do you need'?''

Curry and Jones found a ride for Larry to his new apartment. He met them at
the door to the building and propped it open to welcome his new

Then he slowly walked back in, and closed the door.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

4,000+ POSTS by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy