Tag Archives: homeless

Praying for Peter Stefan!🙏🙏

By Rosalie Tirella

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Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home, located in – and serving – inner-city Worcester! For decades! CECELIA file photos: Rose T.

Peter Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home in Main South, is being crucified by the City of Worcester and the State of Massachusetts for bodies left untreated in his funeral parlor! (AND BEING LAUDED BY THE COMMUNITY – ALL the Worcester County folks who have been helped by Peter – for his compassion!)

I mean no disrespect, but these CITY AND STATE LOSERS, through legal loopholes and general disdain for good deeds and kind hearts, HAVE NOT ALLOWED PETER TO DO HIS JOB – to JUST CREMATE THE REMAINS!, already! City of Worcester’s lawyers, led by head-hack DAVID MOORE, have sat on the paperwork they need to sign off on so Peter can cremate the bodies. The State of Mass keeps playing games with Peter, too – inspecting his funeral home and slapping him with injunctions BUT NOT ALLOWING HIM TO CREMATE THE BODIES! Just let Peter do his job! – lay to rest the unclaimed, probably homess, family-less, dead who have, sadly, been decomposing in body bags at the funeral home, for months. Governor Charlie Baker: Stop dismissing the tribulations of the poor – and help a man WHO IS TRYING TO HELP the indigent!

Remember the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic? When no one knew what the AIDS virus was all about? Well, none of the city’s funeral directors would touch the AIDS victims! Too afraid of catchin’ sonething from the bodies! ONLY PETER RESPECTFULLY EMBALMED AND BURIED/CREMATED the victims, the dead. Only he looked at them – and saw their suffering. And he welcomed their grief-stricken boyfriends, lovers and family members – into his funeral parlor for lovely, loving wakes and ceremonies. Filled with love – not hate. … The men (and women) who died of this new, scary illness, AIDS, were treated WITH DIGNITY and GRACE by Peter!

Remember all the homeless folks who have died in Worcester’s abandoned railroad box cars, with exploded propane containers by their sad, forgotten, burned beyond recognition bodies?! Well, Peter went down to the bowels of our city in the middle of winter and picked up the lost ones – and laid them to rest – with dignity and respect!

REMEMBER PETER’S charitable ways, WORCESTER CITY SOLICITOR DAVID MOORE👿👿?! And city council members!

WHO HAS PAID FOR the free podiatry clinic at the Worcester Senior Center? Year after year? “SAINT” PETER!

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Who has helped Worcester’s lost, downtrodden and homeless for YEARS? Peter Stefan!

Who used to go to Nissan’s bakery and buy A TON OF DONUTS, BREAD, PIES AND OTHER GOODIES for the downtrodden and drunk/high homeless of the old PIP wet shelter, in Main South! And was best buds with exec. director Buddy B? For YEARS!! Worcester ICON Peter!! He is OLDER AND STILL NOT WISE to the scum-bag Worcester and Boston bureacrats’ games – head and paperwork shenanigans!

Peter has been the poor man and woman’s guardian angel for decades! Living Jesus’s gospel for decades – in a God-less world! But don’t worry! All of Worcester has rushed to Peter’s side! To defend him! They are: Singing his praises! Telling their Peter stories!

Worcester and Boston – sign the proper papers already so Peter, sensitive and compassionate, a city legend, can continue doing Jesus’s work for his community!

The priest, the parking lot, the stolen mics and my neighborhood


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Our Lady of Czestochowa church – also known as St. Mary’s – is located on Ward Street, in one of Worcester’s poorest inner-city neighborhoods. Rosalie lives right next door!

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Sometimes people who were homeless or struggling with drug addiction hung out by the church’s shrine, located across from the church, at the other end of the church parking lot.

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St. Mary’s was the church of Rosalie’s Polish immigrant grandparents and mom. Rosalie attended CCD classes at the church’s school and walked to mass at St. Mary’s every Saturday night with her mom and two sisters for 17 years! Here she is with her beloved Polish Grandpa on their Lafayette Street back porch. She looks decked out for mass! pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

I say: The cold, proud priest had it coming to him! Jesus said: Be a lamb, be a serpent! The robbery – aka the recent break in, the filching of microphones, the stealing of $, the messing around in the sacristy at St. Mary’s church in lower Vernon Hill – was my inner-city neighborhood being a serpent.

I’ve watched the lead up to this break in at St. Mary’s on Ward Street – the Polish church’s proper name is Our Lady of Czestochowa – from my plant-filled kitchen window (I live in the apartment building next door) …

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… my parking lot, my walks with Jett and Lilac … for almost three years. I’ve heard the stories from my neighbors.

I ain’t no Aesop but here’s the moral of the story:

If you have a church in one of Worcester’s poorest, most drug-infested, gun-choked neighborhoods where the people are often sad, physically or emotionally abused, underemployed/poor, addicted to heroin or alcohol, desperate, hopeless, homeless! – if you are smack dab in the middle of the world that Jesus came to save and loved the most (Jesus said: THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST! THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST!), then you deal with it. Sensitively, if you’re me. Beautifully, compassionately if you’re a priest or a minister. Heck! If you’re a priest like St. Mary’s Rev. Ryszard Polek maybe you should even try ministering to the people! After all, Jesus LIVED IN/WAS A PART OF a community just like lower Vernon Hill during his sojourn on earth – we’re talking the underbelly, the social outcasts of Nazareth, Jerusalem. He was in the desert storm, wind-whipped whispers from the Devil swirling all around him. The Devil whispered into Jesus’ ears: Come! Follow me! And all this – here the Devil stretches out his arms over a rich, opulent and decadent city  – is yours!

Jesus said: Fuck off, Devil! I’m sticking with the poor folks … my lepers, my cripples, my robbers, my whores … the psychically tormented, the insane! Be gone! And Jesus shook the Devil off like the desert dust from his feet!

And the Devil went away…

If only the pastor of St. Mary’s – the un-Christ like Rev Polek – had learned his Bible lessons from the good nuns at his church in Poland where he was born and lived up until fairly recently. But now his rectory – his home – is next door to his church –  a two-minute walk from my apartment. Rev. Polek sees and is surrounded by the exact same men, women, youth and children I am, but he DOESN’T SEE. Jesus would cry! And be pissed! Righteous anger!!!!

The Rev. Polek has:

Not allowed the Worcester Public Library bookmobile Libby to park in his precious, recently repaved church parking lot so that the little kids (and adults) of the neighborhood can check out books, DVDs, CDs and more. He does have Libby parked on the church parking lot during the school year for the children who attend his church’s elementary school – St. Mary’s.

Rev. Polek has run out of his rectory and chased folks off the church parking lot (repaved recently!!!) and the church’s little pocket park – most recently a sweet neighborhood guy and his sweet pit bull. The man ALWAYS had a plastic bag and picked up after his dog! His daily walks with his beloved pooch in this concrete tough world where dogs that need much exercise are sometimes crated for hours,  owned by drug dealers or fought were to be admired! We all smiled at this pair! Not the pastor! He ran out yelling at the man and chased them off. For ever.

There is much illegal trash dumping in my neighborhood. Right inside, in the back of St. Mary’s church parking lot. On the Endicott Street side. It’s a trash hot spot, to tell you the truth! Rev. Polek has refused to work with the City of Worcester and State Rep. Dan Donahue when he was asked if video cameras could be installed and trained on the hot spot so the illegal dumpers could be caught. I’ve posted photos here of the thrown OFFICE FURNITURE, MATRESSES, chairs, contractors bags filled with garbage etc. All on St. Mary’s property. It sits there for days. Sometimes weeks.

The pastor’s kicked me and Jett and Lilac off his precious church parking lot when I used to walk my pups there (plastic poop bag in hand) in the early a.m. No church service. Just me in my Mom’s New York Yankees baseball cap trying to give my two high energy dogs, both on leads, some exercise in the inner city. A city without a dog park.

The pastor confronted me the last time I walked my mutts, and when I scolded him for not understanding the neighborhood he was smack dab in the middle of and told him Father Madden of St. John’s church, up a few streets, is super great with his neighborhood, actually has programs for the people of the ‘hood, welcomes them … feeds them Rev. Polek said to me in broken English wrapped in a heavy Polish accent: THEN GO TO FATHER MADDEN! Go to him!!!

I said FUCK YOU! then whipped around,  leading Jett and Lilac – they wanted to play with the pastor who just frowned at their exuberance – stormed off! Stormed off his fucking precious church parking lot!

A week later Rev. Polek had about 20 NO TRESPASSING. POLICE TAKE NOTICE  signs posted at the entry of his parking lot, the sides of his parking lot, by the shrine on his parking lot, near the church side of his parking lot… . What’s the Polish word for overkill?! (Rev. Polek!)

But then arrogance superseded nastiness:

Three or so weeks ago, I forget which holiday, the Rev. Polek hauled out the church portable microphones, the speakers, the portable PA system, gold leaf encrusted portable awning and lead a mini church procession around his church parking lot, ending up in front of the church’s shrine. It was warm out, but he was wearing heavy, opulent vestments trimmed in bright red. About 150 parishioners followed him, singing, too. He sang a sad Polish hymn that my mother used to sing around the house when I was a little girl growing up on Lafayette Street. Very plaintive, dark… I cried when I heard that song because it reminded me of Ma and my rough childhood in Green Island. I looked out my kitchen window to watch the Rev. Polek and his tiny flock.

The pageantry was intense and beautiful. It was a sea of people and pretty dresses and bowed heads in the middle of the inner city, surrounded by  tired three deckers, Section 8 housing, poor people, many brown- and black-skinned. It was all in Polish – words and music – not Spanish the way most celebrations in my neighborhood sound.

I struggled with its interpretation: I had never seen anything like this. Was Rev. Polek saying,  Hooray! I’ve got a new parking lot! Screw you poor city people! Look how great and holy we are! Look at my flock! Old, young, babies. We rule this brandy new church parking lot! It’s ours! Not yours! Stay off! Look at us! We are better. We are nothing like you!

Then two or three weeks later, his church is busted into and besides taking money, this outdoor portable PA system that he was using in that parking lot procession was stolen! Ripped off! Nothing else taken! No gold chalice, no gold leafed icon. JUST the PA system that he was using  a few weeks ago – not even flaunting it but he may as well have been – a great outdoor PA system before all the eyes and ears of a  poor BUT MUSIC-OBSESSED community. 

His neighbors, his neighborhood, too.

The recent break in at St. Mary’s is no tragedy, no desecration of a holy space! Jesus, the spirit of Jesus, St. Mary and all the saints and angels, was never there to defile.

And somewhere in the ‘hood there’s a great party going on, the lovely mariachi band sending love through music out to the pretty brown ladies in three deckers, the junkies nodding off in the hallway, the dancers at the backyard party, me writing this story, sweet Jesus up in the city sky!!

Hallelujah!!!

Worcester news you can use!

First and foremost! Don’t forget!

Warm Winter Clothing Drive For the Homeless

Pleasant Street Baptist Church

165 Pleasant St.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

TODAY! Saturday, January 24

Volunteers will be accepting winter coats, jackets, sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves, socks, scarves … For men, women, teens, even little kids …

Free coffee and donuts for all who stop by and make a donation!

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The Worcester Public Library is trying to expand their storytimes in other languages for children and families.

The Worcester Public Library in downtown Worcester is looking for adult volunteers FLUENT in Vietnamese and Portuguese for their World Languages Storytimes that begin this Spring 2015.

Volunteers will be trained and paid to conduct six storytimes for children 5 years old and under. If you’re interested please fill out the application in the Children’s Room of the Worcester Public Library.

Please call 508-799-1671 for more information.

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Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester

… is pleased to announce an ESL Class for Women and Mothers only.  

It will help students improve their English and will be centered around helping them thrive in the community as women, as mothers and as grandmothers.

It is open to all women 18 years and older.

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“Know Your Rights – Law Enforcement” workshop at the Nativity School of Worcester

The school will be hosting a workshop entitled “Police Encounters: Know My Rights If Stopped by Law Enforcement.” 

FREE

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Wednesday, February 4

at the school – 67 Lincoln St. (the old Lincoln House Girls Club).

We are proud to be partnering with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Community Legal Aid, and the Worcester Police Department to make this timely presentation possible.

In light of recent tragic events around our country, it is essential that our young people learn their responsibilities and how to exercise their rights during an encounter with law enforcement.

For more information, call 508.799.0100

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Another reminder! The WORCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS are always in need of warm winter outerwear for WPS students. Their COATS FOR KIDS program is phenomenal!

Some information for you by Paula Harrity: (Want to donate a coat? Please call 508-799-3030)

… a decision was made to provide new outerwear to children based on observations made by classroom teachers.

Teachers responded to survey by saying that for many of these children, it is probably the only new coat they have ever received and they are proud to wear them.

Parents are also grateful for this assistance that takes away the added burden of purchasing coats, hats, and gloves on already strained budgets.

The primary focus for this program is students in grades Prek-6, but other students (grade 6 and beyond) who are in need of warm clothing are also included.

Younger siblings of school-aged children who are living in homeless shelters are outfitted, whenever requested.

All Worcester Head Start sites and children who are serviced through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Grant (through the Head Start Program) are included.

Five sites through the Worcester Community Partnerships, a state subsidized program for pre-school centers, are also serviced. Students are selected by building principals and sites directors based on need.

Once a need has been determined, size and gender information is submitted to the WPS Volunteer Office. In the past, the Volunteer Office has collaborated with the Junior League of Worcester, Inc. (JLW) to coordinate shopping for these students. Junior League shoppers buy the items requested and in some cases deliver the items directly to the schools. Other volunteers, who include retired school department employees, college students, and community members, also shop for the outerwear.

It is important to note that each child is considered individually (names, of course, are kept private), and clothing is color coordinated and chosen to suit the age and gender of the child. These items are brought to the Volunteer Office for distribution to the sites.

Before delivery, clothing is checked, price tags are removed, and the items are bagged for individual students, and delivered to the sites.

Students from area high schools, especially those from South High’s Academy of Education, Service and Government, have assisted the Volunteer Office with this process.

Individuals from the community also contact the Volunteer Office directly and “sponsor” a child by going out on their own to do the shopping.

Students, faculty and employees from Assumption College and University of Massachusetts Medical School and Medical Center have also shopped for items.

Help the homeless stay warm!

We posted this info weeks ago … in case you’ve forgotten …

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Warm Winter Clothing Drive For the Homeless

Pleasant Street Baptist Church

165 Pleasant St.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Saturday, January 24

Go through your closets this coming week! If you, your partner and/or kids don’t wear it any more, DONATE IT!

Volunteers will be accepting winter coats, jackets, sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves, socks, scarves … For men, women, teens, even little kids …

Free coffee and donuts for all who stop by and make a donation!

Go, Worcester, go!

– R. T.

A sobering experience in Worcester’s innercity

By Ron O’Clair

Morris “Moe” Bergman, Worcester City Councilor at-Large-elect, made a campaign promise: To increase the eviction laws to help property owners speedily evict troublesome tenants who are involved in illegal or detrimental activities as indicated by the following statement that comes right off of his campaign mailer to voters. Here it is, and I quote: “Moe Bergman wants to expand existing nuisance eviction laws to help residents, police and property owners to quickly and permanently remove from neighborhoods individuals committing gun/gang/drug related crimes.”

A recent experience that I had with a couple that I shall refer to as “Fred & Wilma” along with numerous other incidents over the years that I have been the building and property superintendent of 703 – 711 Main Street makes that pledge stand out as particularly pertinent to the rooming house I manage as part of the property that I am the responsible party for.

When a vacancy occurs in the rooming house, it is part of my duties as the building superintendent to prepare the room for rental, accept applications from potential tenants, and interview those tenants to see if they will be an asset or a detriment to the tenants that are already housed within the building. It has been my experience over the years that drugs and alcohol usage and abuse are the primary factors that destroy the peace, serenity, and safety of the building.

With that in mind, the owner, Julio Romero and I publicly posted our intention to make the rooming house a clean & sober living environment at the height of the insanity some years back. I had several tenants at that time involved in illicit activities that made living here almost intolerable, and even though we went through the legal process of eviction of these longstanding tenants, they refused to leave causing us further anguish and expense with unpaid rents accumulating to unrealistic amounts.

This was due to the fact that if a tenant that has established a tenancy, (which takes longer than a week by the way) loses the case in Housing Court for non-payment and is ordered by the Housing Court to leave by a certain date and fails to do so, the owner has no legal recourse other than to have the Sheriffs Constables carry out the eviction by force, with a moving company being paid to store the deadbeats possessions for three months at the landlords expense.

This process is very expensive and the landlord not only loses the back rent, they are on the hook for a considerable sum of money to carry out the eviction. When he went through that in 2003 with a tenant who owed a lot of money and was running a drug store out of the rear parking lot window, it cost Julio $2,500.00 more to remove the tenant and even though the rooms are furnished when rented, the moving company took all the furnishings along with the belongings against my objection.

So Julio had the further expense of replacing the furniture.

When Senor Romero took possession of the building from Paul M. Berger in March of 2003, 7 out of the 11 rooms on one side of the rooming house had tenants that were involved in illegal drug sales activity and the place was known as a place to score the drug of choice the buyers were looking for.

There was an all night stream of deadbeats, hookers, crack heads, junkies and thieves parading in and out of the building, using the bathroom facilities reserved for tenant use only to take showers and shoot up in, making it impossible for those that paid rent to use their own bathrooms, or be secure in their possessions due to the frequency of break-ins to the individual rooms while they were out.

In addition to those who were doing and selling drugs, we had others who were severe alcoholics and would cause all sorts of problems while intoxicated beyond belief to the point of being a danger to the other tenants by attempting to cook in an inebriated condition and causing fires when they failed to attend to the task properly.

There were numerous knock down, dragged out fights caused by the drunks becoming violent or mouthy under the influence. They also endangered themselves by falling down the stairs in a drunken stupor, requiring emergency medical services to have to come take them to the hospital. The police were called frequently as a result, taking them away from more important matters.

Julio was beside himself, ruing the day he ever got involved with purchasing the building, and watched as the investment of his life savings was threatened to be taken from him by the City of Worcester like 5 Sycamore Street had been shortly before. In fact many years later, Barbara Haller, former District 4 City Councilor admitted to me that the process had begun, and this building was the next one that the City planned to take in an effort to combat lawlessness in this neighborhood that is adjacent to the then location of the PIP shelter.

Between March and June of 2003, Julio had appointed the statutorily required live in manager 5 different times trying to find someone up to the task of wresting control of the building back from those hell bent on destroying it, and maintaining their lucrative drug sales activities unhampered by interference by the good residents who began fleeing in terror due to all the commotion going on 24/7/365. At the time I had been a tenant since 03 July 1996 and watched as Berger began losing control of the building from that time up to the time he sold it in 2003.

When Berger owned it, the activity went on only at night when Paul closed Berger Army & Navy and went home to Framingham each night. After he sold, the place operated on a 24 hour basis unimpeded by any attempt Julio made to stop the illegal activity. I started to write about what was going on, and sent some of the stories to the Telegram & Gazette, as well as to the then rather newly created InCity Times that Rosalie Tirella started up in protest to the established papers of that time.

I owe Rosalie a great debt of gratitude for letting me sow my oats as a writer through her publication of my early attempts as a journalist and aspiring writer of book length manuscripts. I have grown under her tutelage over the years, and have written some hard hitting stories that brought me some recognition as a writer. Rosalie and I have always been advocates for the less fortunate, and for the ethical treatment of people and animals.

As an alcoholic in recovery myself with 30 plus years in the A.A program, I try to help those that have a problem with alcohol and drugs get the treatment they need to combat the insidiousness of addiction and start the long road to recovery.

That is why when a case manager from the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program (HOAP) run out of the Community Healthlink building located at 162 Chandler Street came to me on the 16th of October with two of the worst of the former PIP shelter clients whom I had had numerous problems with over the years trespassing on the private property I manage here, I consented to give them a trial period  based upon verbal assurances from all concerned that they had stopped drinking and that no problems would ensue if I allowed them to take up residence.

I was very skeptical, but the laws do not allow me to discriminate when accepting applications for housing and the rent was guaranteed by the Community Healthlink, Inc. Beneficiary Account program which acts as a payee for people receiving Social Security Disability Income payments, who are not responsible enough to be trusted with their own money, and need to have a payee ensure that it is spent on needed things rather than have it all go to drugs or alcohol.

Julio has three tenants currently who owe a combined total of over $6000.00 in back rent of whom he has taken two to Housing Court already and won eviction, with the third scheduled to go to Housing Court on the 31st of October.   Along with the fact that my own nephew Anthony who is an I.V. drug user stole nearly $1,800 from his uncle Ron that was collected rents due the landlord, for the second time since I tried to help him into recovery from drug abuse.

The first time was when I allowed Anthony to move into the building intending to try and help him into recovery on his promise to help me out around the place with renovations in return for the rent, and he was responsible for the theft of other tenants possessions as well as money that I had collected from rents, to the tune of over $2000.00 that time.

The problem was, at the time I had three other suspects that were living here, but could not be sure that it was my own flesh and blood who had committed the thefts. Anthony swore up and down that he would never do that to his uncle Ron, and I halfway believed him. Julio graciously did not fire me and accepted the loss as a cost of doing business in these times here in Worcester where drug and alcohol usage and abuse causes many such thefts throughout the city to support drug habits.

My GMC pick-up was broken into for the second time just recently and the thieves made off with the brand new muffler I had in the backseat that I got from the guy who owns Meineke Muffler on Park Ave for pulling his truck out of a snow bank last winter during one of the many blizzards we had. Along with the muffler went anything else of value that I had in there. And I found a crack whore sleeping on my front seat that I had pulled out by her feet rather than have the police come and fail to arrest her for trespassing and breaking and entering a motor vehicle. In all my calls over the years, only a handful of arrests were made signaling to the criminals that the illegal behaviors could be continued without fear of arrest. A few arrests would have stopped all the unnecessary criminal activity we have had to put up with over the years that I have been here.

Those are the reasons that I reluctantly consented to give “Fred & Wilma” a chance to prove to me that they had changed their M.O. and could be relied upon to honor their verbal agreement not to drink, and to not cause the other tenants any grief. But, having grown wiser over the years of managing the rooming house I protected myself and Julio by not allowing them to establish a tenancy during the trial period. No money was taken during the period they were here, nor any rent receipt given.

When events that transpired during the first of the week by week arrangement that we all had agreed upon proved the unsuitability of “Fred & Wilma” I terminated the arrangement, returned the uncashed check and the few items that were left in the room, and thought that was the end of it.

Donna Domiziano of the Mustard Seed on Piedmont Street here in the city, who advocates for the needy and truly cares about the less fortunate who patronize the free food program also known as the Catholic Worker House, tried to convince me to give “Wilma” a chance to remain all by herself without “Fred” who I had caught causing a disturbance at 9:30 Sunday morning the 20th of October. But I learned that “Wilma” had not only snuck “Fred” back in against the agreement that I had made when Donna showed up at my door to plead the case of letting “Wilma” stay overnight on the 22nd so she could remove her possessions the next day, she had also allowed a visitor against my “No Visitor” policy.

Mark, one of the volunteer’s at the Mustard Seed admitted to me that he had been watching television with “Fred & Wilma” on the television that Donna loaned to them with rabbit ears that he had loaned to the couple. That was before he assaulted me physically after Donna had asked him to help me unload the van of “Fred & Wilma’s” possessions. During the discussions that preceded unloading the van, tempers flared and lots of shouting and verbal abuse was heaped my way by several of the habitué’s of the Mustard Seed who vociferously objected to me not allowing “Fred & Wilma” to stay.

It was while unloading Donnas’ television that I was assaulted my Mark, nearly causing me to drop the television on the ground which would have smashed it to pieces I am sure. I can understand and empathize with those that advocate placement of homeless drug addicts and alcoholics due to concerns of them freezing to death as the weather turns colder, but I can’t allow them to destroy what peace and serenity or safety and security I have managed to achieve here at Romero’s.

At one point I had suggested to Donna that if she was so concerned about them sleeping outside, she should let them sleep inside where the people eat. She did not like that idea.

The supervisor of the case manager that had agreed to the temporary trial period who refused to give me his name upon my request when I returned the draft for the $750.00, threatened me with all sorts of legal actions if I did not reconsider and allow “Fred & Wilma” to return. I don’t think he will be successful seeing as how I never allowed the couple to establish a tenancy.

I can understand that they are staunch advocates for their clients and are trying to place the most difficult cases in housing before the winter weather comes, and a solution must be found to house these people somewhere, but I can’t jeopardize my other tenants with those that can’t follow the rules that are in place that regulate acceptable behavior in the rooming house.

There is apparently a need for a heated space that can be used in the fashion that the old PIP shelter had been where the homeless can crash out on the floor overnight in the sub-zero temperatures that will come with the winter ahead of us. Some of the clients of HOAP are clearly unsuited to live among other people in a rooming house environment.

If anyone has any idea’s to solve this issue, District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera would be a good person to contact to implement them. The new version of the PIP seems to lack the capacity that the old PIP did.

Tweaked: Kara died at Worcester’s Mustard Seed Soup Kitchen …

By Rosalie Tirella

… and I feel the loss.

Kara wasn’t a friend of mine, but I knew of her through folks, folks who saw her make her way through South Worcester, Piedmont and Main South. She was pretty, in her late 30s, a slip of a woman who saw herself as a slinky, sexy dancer, a soulful singer, a soon to be Las Vegas show girl. But really Kara was just a Worcester street girl, braving the elements and exploitative men, eating dinner at the Mustard Seed soup kitchen on Piedmont Street, craddling a bottle of vodka inside her coat – her real “steady,” her true love, the stuff that made her dreams come true. The poison which let her see herself as pretty (which she was), a good singer (which she was), a dancer (which she was), an actress (had to be to survive the streets!!!), a savvy traveler, a STAR.

A petite woman like Kara can’t keep drinking a hefty bottle of vodka a day,without tempting fate. But Kara, who wasn’t hooked on heroin or didn’t do coke – was hooked on her beloved vodka. Straight, mixed in large paper cups filled with Coca Cola. Any way would do and really, it kept her going … going …. going….going…

How do street women survive? On dreams of … a loving boyfriend (in reality an unscrupulous pimp, sometimes a herion addict male pal who sends his girl out to give guys blow jobs and more and then turns around and uses the money she earned to buy heroin for himself – we knew of just such a relatonship. Not only was this asshole using his “girlfriend” – sometimes he would beat her up when she came home in the early afternoon, drunk, a cab driver hauling her out of his cab like a sack of potatoes and dumping her on the back porch … Honey, I’m home!!

These girls have ideas, have opinions but society squelches their intelligence. Heaven forbid they share their thoughts with their johns who hate themselves for visiting a Worcester whore and take out their self-loathing/shame on the girl. I was told of one neighborhood girl who, after giving a blow job to her john on a back porch, commented on all the pigeon shit on the porch railing – greeny white little splotches everywhere. She told her john: pigeons can be so dirty. And that’s a fact! The john took an empty beer bottle and konked her over the head with it.

How do “neighborhood girls” like Kara survive it all?

Vodka of course. Heroin of course. Cocaine of course. Saints who used to staff the PIP wet shelter in Main South – now gone, which spells trouble for girls like Kara who lose access to the old PIP’s loving social workers and the old PIP’s Dr. Garcia, a Latino physician who was GOD’S GIFT TO WOMEN (AND MEN) LIKE KARA.

But I digress. A total numbing of all the senses is what is needed to survive the streets in summer, winter, springtime or fall … And when you come out of your self-induced dream, you walk over to the Mustard Seed for a good home-cooked meal served by the tough/loving/profane/spiritual/jagged/ephemeral/tired as hell Donna Domiziano, the ex-nun who runs the Mustard Seed. We LOVE Donna!

And sometimes, like Kara, you go out with a “friend” who fucks you but who doesn’t hurt you. He gives you a bit of money and feeds you and sends you on your way with ten or twenty bucks in your sweat shirt pocket. He helps fuel your dreams for another day or two. And maybe you take the money to catch a bus to New York City, like Kara did. And you see if you can make it there! Kara used to say she wanted to meet Robert DeNiro, that she would sing and dance for him when she saw him. She said she had gone to Las Vegas one time, after hopping on a Greyhound Bus in Worcester, and won second place in a keroke contest out there. $50! She should have won first prize! But it was enough …. enough dough, enough recognition to make her believe in her gifts… for a little while.

There is something beautiful in a street girl … something in her that makes you want to rescue her because you see yourself in her. She – like you, like all women – wants to star in her very own special movie, a flick in which she/you are loved, feted for your talent, made to feel safe by your husband, showered with love and praise and love and praise and warmth, warmth, warmth.

Kara was always cold.

So you (me, actually) call a pal and say: I am worried about Kara!!! She is going to die! Drinking like that! At St. Vincen’t hospital because she was sick from booze! SHE NEEDS TO BE DETOXED! LET’S TAKE HER TO GET DETOXED! I WILL PUT HER IN THE CAR AND DRIVE HER TO ADCARE OR COMMUNITY HEALTH LINK! LET’S DO IT TODAY!

I said this twice on two different days. Answer was: Kara doesn’t want help. She is not going to change. Let her be the way she has been …

And I did.

Then the news: A few weeks ago my Kara, the singer, the dancer, the actress, the lover of Robert DiNiro and twirling, colored stage lights, died at the Mustard Seed. She was there with a gal pal. She was eating dinner with her. She turned to her friend and said: I’m cold. Her gal pal hugged her and began rubbing her arms up and down Kara’s back to warm her up. Then Kara threw up and died in her friend’s arms. People said she never chewed her food, gulped it down. They said the Mustard Seed clients tried to do the Heimlach Maneuver on Kara but to no avail.

Donna went to Kara’s funeral. In Ware, I think. She was cremated. Now she sleeps in the country … away from Worcester’s streets.
****************
A SONG FOR KARA:

Re: the chaos at the PIP. You have to wonder …

By Rosalie Tirella

… about some developments. Last night, just as I slipped into my jammies and got ready to watch “The 400 Blows,” my fave film, for the tenth time, I got a call from a PIP client. Distraught over the living situation down there.

Now InCity Times has covered the PIP for over a decade, back when the lovely Buddy was its executive director. Even in the Buddy days, when PIP clients were actually loved, treated with much kindness … it was still a scary place.

These days things seem to have exploded, imploded, spun out of control at the PIP, so now we have a dirty, dumpy, violent hell hole. Or so alot of PIP clients claim, including the person who called me last night, a sweet heart, I may add. She picked up this issue of ICT and got my number off the masthead. A regular reader, God love her!

We talked about the old PIP regime. Do the clients miss George Orcut and his mom, life long PIP workers who along with Budddy, made
the PIP clients, Wusta’s truly downtrodden, a home, a special place?

I would say YES. However, something else is going on at the PIP. Clients, as battle weary/ready and tough as they come, are afraid to lay their heads on their PIP pillows to sleep it off, wait for the new day to dawn. New hope? New fix? That always depended on the client.

But the woman who called me last night said people were assaulted nightly. That the police were there nightly. That a 19-year-old girl was sleeping amidst a bunch of street guys.

There used to be male and female sleeping quarters when Buddy ran the PIP. Yes, folks, wasted on junk or booze, used to be sprawled out on the floor in the main area, but the old PIP workers tried to get them to one of the tables in the room, off to a corner, maybe talking with a PIP social or health worker.

All that should still be happening, no matter how put out SMOC, the Metro West agency that now runs the PIP, feels.

SMOC has run the PIP for a few years now, but it has agreed to close the PIP building at 701 Main Street and wait for new digs to be opened in the Piedmont neighborhood.

Well, furniture was gotten rid of, the place was set up to feed folks, assess the real hard luck/sick cases and move them out to local hospitals. Then the City of Worcester asked SMOC to stick with their old mission for a little while longer, since the new shelter in Piedmont was running behind schedule … And Worcester had no place set up for its drug abusing homeless population.

Personally, I think city officials were hoping for such a gap. So the people that no one wants to deal with/care for could fall into it … and disappear.

While Worcester takes the low road …

By Rosalie Tirella

…. when it comes to its panhandlers and street folks, Boston is trying something innovative and compassionate. And way cool.

Ever hear of Panera Bread? We have a few of these bakery/coffee shop type franchises in the Worcester area. Well, it seems like Panera cares about the homeless because they have built several Panera Cares bakeries all over America. Including one in Boston, near city government, smack in the middle of bustling Boston. Panera Cares feeds EVERYBODY. Pay what you can, and if you can’t that’s Ok. You can still eat. Especially if you are hungry.

Brilliant!

Open-hearted!

Very cool! This is why Boston is a first-tier city and Worcester is a third-tier city. It has so much to do with spirit, courage, the willingness to take big risks.

It works this way: It is a regular Panera Bread with all fresh soups and bakery items and beverages, including coffee. If you want to buy a loaf of bread, it is less expensive but also day-old, taken from other Panera Bread cafes/shops. Not bad, seeing most of the bread you buy at the supermarket is a day old and then some if you buy the packaged stuff that is trucked in.

So. How is Boston’s new Paneras Cares doing? How are America’s Panera Cares faring?

Quite well. There’s no class warfare g, oing on or panhandlers jumping the well off. Just a bunch of folks, Americans, eating lunch together. The middle class eat with the poor eat with the homeless. The folks who can pay full price for their lunches or snacks do. The folks who are short a buck or so pay what they can. Same for the homeless who eat with everyone else.

God bless Panera bread!

We mere mortals should pray for Worcester city council menbers and other city leaders so they too can grow hearts.

Worcester County’s Veterans …

Maurice Costello.JPG

Image from The National Veterans Art Museum. The National Veterans Art Museum inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.

To learn more, click on the link below:

http://www.nvam.org/ 

… Homeless, but not Hopeless

By Maria Jannace

With the rate of U.S. homeless veterans doubling in the last five years,
organizations like Veteran Homestead are working hard to help achieve the “zero homeless veterans by 2015” goal.

Picture it. The year is 2015. Though the scars of wars from as far back as 50 years ago still grip the minds and bodies of hundreds of thousands of American veterans, there is some comfort in knowing that at least they all have a place they can call home.

Picture it. The year is 2012. More than 200,000 brave men and women who fought for your freedom are without homes. More than 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness at some time during the course of this year. It is stunning to know that veterans make up nearly a quarter of this nation’s entire homeless population.

A noble goal by the Department of Veterans Affairs is to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy, but given the critical nature of today’s statistics, nothing short of a miracle will bring the number of homeless vets down to a mere zero in the less than three short years ahead. The United States government is taking action and in July of this year, the U. S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 1627, a bill that addresses several areas of concern for veterans, including health care, housing, education, and benefits. Thankfully, there are organizations founded and funded by private citizens that are also leading the charge to end homelessness among American veterans. One such organization is Veteran Homestead headquartered in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Veteran Homestead founder and CEO Leslie Lightfoot served in the Army as a medic from 1967-1970. She spent two years at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during the Vietnam War, witnessing – on a daily basis – injuries and deaths unimaginable by civilians. Her experience led her to become a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and she holds two Psychology degrees from Fitchburg State University. She has been serving the needs of the veteran community ever since she left the Army in 1970. In 1993, Lightfoot founded Veteran Homestead that now has six facilities throughout New England and Puerto Rico. It is a crushing task that faces Lightfoot and her accomplished team each day, but progress is being made.

“Almost half of all homeless veterans in America fought in Vietnam,” Lightfoot said. “But there are as many as 20,000 vets who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and have become homeless in the past five years, including women veterans with children.”
Women are the fastest growing segment of veteran homelessness.

“Our military men and women who come back from war with traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are truly the ‘walking wounded,’” Lightfoot said. “They may not be missing an arm or a leg, but many are damaged deeply.”
The mission of Veteran Homestead is to minimize and even reverse that damage by providing medical, psychological, and spiritual care. For people like Adam Morse, Veteran Homestead has become a lifeline.

Morse was still in high school when he joined the National Guard, never expecting to see battle. Fate intervened, and Morse returned from battle emotionally scarred by the weight of his experience that led him to alcohol and drugs – a not unusual plight for homeless veterans. Morse has been sober for a year now, and he truly believes that Veteran Homestead saved his life and saved his family.

Andrew Rosacker had been a member of an elite Marine Corps anti-terrorist security team but was working with a civilian contractor for the State Department when he served in Iraq. Entering the city of Fallujah, he spotted a car speeding toward his vehicle. The car refused to stop. Rosacker opened fire. The vehicle stopped. The driver looked up at Rosacker. Smiled. Then pushed the button.

The explosion threw Rosacker from his vehicle causing traumatic brain injury. Then he was shot in the stomach and declared dead. After he was revived, he returned home and was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. He subsequently suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. Sometimes his depression got so bad he would just turn off the lights and sit in the corner of a room and cry. Imagining a 6-foot-1 tough marine (and former Seal team member) crying alone is heartbreaking. But Rosacker, and many others, are making steady inroads into recovery at Veteran Homestead facilities including the recently opened Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center (NVTRC) on 10 acres of land given by Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.
The NVTRC, the only facility of its kind in the United States, sits on ten acres with twenty 2-bedroom homes, an indoor swimming pool, weight/exercise room, gymnasium, and other amenities designed to prepare residents for a life in which their disabilities will be less of a burden.

“The loss of a limb, a disfiguring burn, a traumatic brain injury, or an emotional scar due to post-traumatic stress are all life changing events that affect both the veteran and his family,” Lightfoot said. “The idea of not being a whole person or having your loved ones perceive you as someone much different than you were can leave emotional and psychological scars that dwarf the physical.”

NVTRC’s focus is on education (offering college courses in a partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College) and physical, occupational, and emotional therapy with an emphasis on family counseling along with the life and recreational skills that are so often taken for granted. The two-bedroom homes at the Center enable wounded warriors to practice daily living skills and provide privacy for both the veteran and his or her family. There is a therapy-dog training program there as well. Veteran Homestead endeavors to replicate the NVTRC facility model all across the United States.

Veteran Homestead is working to secure grants, but much of their support comes from private citizens and corporations that understand the importance of helping veterans revive their pride and become productive citizens. Unlike many charitable organizations, at Veteran Homestead, 90% of all funds go directly to programs that benefit the veterans. Only 10% is used to cover administrative support. And at all Veteran Homestead facilities, compassion is key. Beginning with Lightfoot herself and permeating throughout the staff at all six locations is a pervasive sense that “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Many on staff are veterans themselves.

They have lived the lives of their clients. They have been in the trenches and understand the gap in which veterans sometimes fall. Sometimes, it’s more than a gap – it’s a chasm. Lightfoot’s children – as she herself was – are exposed to the ordeals that can beset a body and mind with PTSD. Lightfoot’s Army daughter is a veteran of Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Her Air Force daughter is a veteran of Desert Storm and Iraq and has been in and out of Afghanistan. Lightfoot’s National Guard Son is a veteran of Afghanistan.

“Every soldier is someone’s child,” Lightfoot said. “We never forget that, and whether they are 22 or 62, these veterans have earned and deserve the utmost help and hope and a life of dignity. It is our deepest desire that by giving them a home – whether short or long term – and helping the healing process, these American heroes can accomplish the dreams they set forth before the cruel arms of war assaulted their lives.”
Dignity is at the center of daily life at Veteran Hospice Homestead in Fitchburg, a residential facility dedicated to veterans living with life threatening illness and the only privately run, veteran-specific hospice in the country. Hospice specialists provide innovative transitional housing programs for homeless veterans who are diagnosed with terminal illness and are no longer able to care for themselves.

Hero Homestead in Leominster is a facility designed for elderly veterans. Residents are encouraged to help each other and attend to as many of their own needs as possible.
Also in Leominster, Veteran Homestead operates Armistice Homestead in a beautiful neighborhood where veterans with a progressive outlook enjoy innovative programs that enhance camaraderie and accomplishment.

Ever looking to create environments that help veterans immerse themselves fully into quality living, Veteran Homestead developed The Victory Farm in New Hampshire, the first of its kind in the United States. It’s an 80-acre working organic vegetable farm that offers a lifestyle change to homeless veterans who have not been successful transitioning from residential treatment programs to independent or transitional housing. Veterans are responsible for the feeding and caring of dozens of animals and tend crops as well.

In Puerto Rico, Veteran Homestead’s large residential home – and the only such facility in this U.S. territory – is located in beautiful Caguas. The focus of Hacienda de Veteranos is restoring a sense of self-worth with therapy sessions provided by the Veterans Administration and in-house case managers.

With the rate of U.S. homeless veterans doubling in the last five years, organizations like Veteran Homestead are working hard to help achieve the “zero homeless veterans by 2015” goal. Lightfoot says she will continue to grow her nonprofit organization for “as long as it takes.” In January, Governor Patrick Murray announced that the state of Massachusetts had achieved a 21% decline in veteran homelessness from a year ago. Perhaps Massachusetts can lead the way in eliminating homelessness among our nation’s walking wounded. Perhaps Veteran Homestead can replicate its programs in other states so that they, too, can give help and hope to their citizens who have fallen into the chasm of homelessness after serving their country. Perhaps there is a future where heroes like former U. S. Navy Seal Andrew Rosacker never need to utter the words, “Sometimes I just cry.”

Neighborhood meeting tonight, re: the PIP! Please attend! Speak out!

By Rosalie Tirella

Hoping there are a ton of Main South and D-4 residents tonight, 6:30 p.m., at the Worcester Housing Authority building at 50 Murray Ave. for the neighborhood meeting, re: The PIP reopening.

The reincarnation of the PIP, unfortunately, is a done deal. Here’s hoping the meeting, called by D-4 Barbara Haller, draws lots of folks to voice their concerns. Maybe they can actually get City Hall and the WPD to show them some respect.

People, agitate for:

A police substation at the PIP would do a lot to disperse the nefarious types who prey on PIP clients. Also, please demand the planting of trees, sidewalk repair, etc.

If you don’t SPEAK OUT, no one will hear you!