Tag Archives: PIP

Nov. 3 vote for write-in candidate Peter Stefan – Governor’s Council, District 7!!

By Rosalie Tirella

Abhorrent – my neighbors. After yesterday’s crazed cupcake incident, then the WHITE-PAINT-all-over-Rose’s car catastrophe, I guess it’s time for my nemesis to vacuum her car! No heart.

Homeles Coalition 2012
Peter has always helped Worcester’s homeless. ICT file photo.

The opposite of my friend, Main South community activist and one-man social service agency Peter Stefan, owner of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home at 838 Main St. Peter’s the Heart of Worcester’s Main South neighborhood!!


You know, my friend Peter is ALL HEART, no matter what some folks at City Hall may think! Injustice of any kind moves him – even though he’s seen a lot in his 80+ years and he’s been in the middle of so many great battles for social justice here in our city, often on the vanquished side. Yet, he never despairs, his heart never grows cold, never turns away, unmoved, by people in need. Peter’s never dismissive of poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, animal cruelty.

Peter is running for Mass Governors Council, District 7, – you should vote for this good, unpretentious man! … Today, you’d think he’d be calling me for a positive political story. Ingratiating himself with this writer and inner-city newspaper owner. Pushing for some pretty prose. Nope. Peter called me this afternoon because he was moved by my car pic and plight – got in touch with me to HELP ME, offer real feelings about my dogs, my life, the safety of us all. And expressing real dismay at the actions of bad actors.

This is the Peter Stefan I’ve known – Worcester has known – for years and years. The guy who gives food to the hungry, helps indigent seniors pay for their prescription meds, helps another elderly person pay his heating bill, buries Worcester’s unwanted: the scrawny homeless guys found in train box cars, dead in the dead of winter … the murdered gang members … little babies tragically mute, their sweet breath stopped cold…their parents too poor to pay for their caskets (so small!) and their burial sites and funeral services. No one cares about these people. They have no clout. Peter has always cared for them … loved them.

If you write Peter Stefan’s name on the ballot line where it says governors council and fill in the oval next to his name on November 3, if you elect Peter to Governors Council, we will ALL GET A FIERCE LOVER OF SOCIAL JUSTICE, RACIAL EQUALITY, COMPASSION FOR ALL – especially the state’s most vulnerable. He will make Massachusetts courts MORE JUST – racially balanced, lots of women judges/clerk magistrates, less incarceration and more community service/true rehabilitation.

A bonus: Peter will also donate his entire Governors Council salary – a $36,000 a year salary – for two years – to Worcester County Food Pantries and Homeless Shelters: from Fitchburg and Gardner to Southbridge and Webster. The Worcester County Food Bank in Shrewsbury, too. And the Veterans Shelter and Pernet Health food pantries, right here in Worcester. Milford and Athol, small towns but also struggling with hunger, especially during these days of COVID and job layoffs/economic landslides, will get money, too. Most likely Peter will visit the food pantries to check out the operations for himself! He was a board member and a HUGE advocate of the now gone PIP WET HOMELESS SHELTER down the road from him, in Main South, at the cusp of downtown. Peter would go every week to Nissans Wholesale Bakery on Quinsig Ave and buy a ton of freshly made pastries, rolls and more for all the homeless people at the PIP. Every week. He’d then drive down to the PIP, deliver them to the wet shelter on the corner of Charlton and Main and talk to the people there, visit with the staffers, buck up PIP Executive Director Buddy Brousseau, who loved Peter. Peter used to say: “I’m the PIP’s junkyard dog!” He was right! Whenever the PIP was in the news and it was bad, Peter was all over the situation asking newspaper readers, rhetorically: WHAT IF THIS WAS YOUR MOTHER OR DAUGHTER OR SON OR FATHER? He always saw THE HOMELESS PERSON as a person first and foremost. A human being, God’s child.

🦋 During the COVID 19 pandemic Peter doesn’t spread the novel corona virus – he wears his facial mask and social distances – but he still spreads love. Always has. As the owner of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home, he cleansed and cared for the bodies of AIDS patients when no one would touch them. It was in the 1980s and no other funeral homes wanted to wash, embalm, respect the bodies of deceased HIV patients; funeral home owners were fearful of the relatively new virus – thought they could catch it through body fluids. Plus, many funeral home directors were just plain old homophobic and didn’t want to deal with gay folks and their friends and families.

Peter led the way – became an advocate for people with HIV BEFORE ANY ONE ELSE IN HIS BUSINESS. This decision, I will never forget, because it was so selfless and fearless.

Classic Peter.

Please vote for our Classic Peter (Stefan) on November 3!!



Praying for Peter Stefan!🙏🙏

By Rosalie Tirella

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!

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!

Ronny parked in A.I. … Main South: Centro buys property

By Ron O’Clair

I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Juan Gomez, the executive director of Centro, located at 11 Sycamore St. He informed me of the plans that the organization has been working on to deal with a cramped facility at the Sycamore Street location.

Centro. photos: Ron O’ Clair




Junction Shop at Beacon Street, located behind Centro

The property located at 14 and 16 Sycamore Street directly across from their building had come up for sale and the Centro organization bought it. They plan to tear down the front building and renovate the rear bungalow into extra office space to relieve the overcrowded conditions in their existing building.

The area where the front building now sits will be turned into a parking area to relieve the pressing need for space to park for the clients and staff of Centro.

There are plans in the works also to raise the capital needed to purchase the old PIP building at 695 – 701 Main Street which was previously the site of the only “wet” homeless shelter in Worcester. The shelter operations moved out of that facility on the 22nd of May in 2014 to a new, more modern but smaller facility at 25 Queen St., across from the old City Hospital Campus that is now a part of U. Mass.

According to Mr. Gomez, if Centro manages to acquire the PIP property, they have plans to place an International Multi-Cultural Performing Arts Center at the site, open to all ethnic groups from around the world that now live in Worcester.

I have to say bravo to this plan, as it is sure to complement the area, and any use of the old shelter site would be a welcome addition to the 700 block of my Main Street neighborhood, as well as keeping an eye on the property that now sits vacant and unused.

Any development in this area would be a welcome addition.

The property that I manage for the last 13 years has also changed hands, and the new owners are looking to upgrade the property and the grounds with a heavy infusion of investment capital which is what it sorely needs at this juncture in its life. We have already taken steps to evict all of the people who resided in the building under the previous owner who have been part of the problem, allowing street people inside to use the facilities reserved for paying tenants only.

That is what the proximity to the old PIP shelter has meant for this property since the time previous owner Julio E. Romero plunked down his life savings to buy it in 2003 from Mr. Paul M, Berger who had his “Berger Army & Navy Store” in the 709-711 Main Street Commercial spaces for many years. After having a string of bad tenants and those who were harder to evict than you can imagine, Senor Romero lost his investment and his property to a bank foreclosure as happens to many property owners here in Massachusetts where the law works against the people who are responsible and do not use drugs and for the ones who go from landlord to landlord stiffing all of them in order to stay without having to pay rent. Many use all the rent money to further their drug addictions.

I should know. I’ve been the live-in property manager of the rooming house for more than a decade.

If you liked the story, or you didn’t like it, please send your feed back to the author at: ronaldoclair@hotmail.com

A harsh winter = homeless emergency in Worcester

By Gordon T. Davis

There is a human rights emergency in Worcester.  Homeless people are suffering in the more than 600 hours of continuous temperatures below freezing. The Worcester City Council’s Committee on Public Health, chaired by Councillor Sarai Rivera, held hearings on the matter February 23.

The Triage Center for the homeless, located in the Piedmont neighborhood on Queen Street, has exceeded its capacity daily because of the extreme cold and snow.

The facility is licensed for 25 beds, but some nights more than 100 people spend the night there. This number is not representative of the number of people who need shelter, as many people do not meet the criteria of the Triage Center or choose to remain outdoors.  One person who attended the meeting, Paul, said that the staff of the Triage Center was sometimes confused about the requirements.

The number of people sheltering in the Triage Center has brought complaints from the Shepherd/King Street Neighborhood Association which was represented by former Worcester City Councillor Barbara Haller.  Haller and I have locked horns before on numerous issues, but in this case I think she is right despite her motives.  She said the Triage Center was never intended to shelter more than 100 people on a daily basis. Forty people were acceptable, albeit a number exceeding the Center’s license for 25 beds.  The old PIP Shelter had 37 residents when it closed its doors and was replaced by the Triage Center.

South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) runs the Triage Center on the campus of Community Healthlink, a part of UMass Hospital. The SMOC representative, Charles Gagnon, detailed the efforts it was making to reduce the “overflow” of people to the Triage Center. He said the goal was to develop a single point of entry for the people needing shelter; this is the vision developed by the Federal agency of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Through HUD, SMOC has 50 units of housing, 100 vouchers for housing and 15 housing slots.

SMOC said it was looking at a long-term solution of moving homeless people into housing.

Gagnon also said the harsh winter, the closure of the Long Island Center in Boston, and the periodic mercy patrols by the Worcester Police have a part to play in the overcrowding. Although he admitted he should have included the city administration/council and neighbors sooner in the discussion of the overcrowding, he felt, at the time, the extreme weather and demand on the Triage Center would subside.

Councillor Rivera said the system is broken. Mary Keefe, the district’s state representative,  said she was just learning of the issue.  Hopefully, Representative Keefe will come up with a strategy that the City of Worcester can take to the State.

Councillor Rivera is right in that the system is broken. There does not seem to be the political will to resolve the underlying causes that make people “homeless”:  an economic system in which we live from pay check to pay check, a devastated human services safety net, the health issues of the homelessness, and the prejudice against even the sight of the homeless and “panhandlers.”

Although not a surprise, it is a disappointment that more people, politicians and Worcester political candidates did not come to the hearing.

I suppose a human rights crisis does not matter, when the people in crisis cannot vote or contribute $$$ to a political campaign.

Gary, Main South street artist

Gary at work – clean and sober!

Some of Gary’s paintings! If you would like to own any of these paintings and/or want to support a guy trying to stay in recovery, please BUY A PAINTING! You can call InCity Times editor Rosalie T. for more info: 508.963.8386.

Story and photos by Ron O’Clair

Today is the 11th of February, and it marks the 30th day of sobriety for Gary Osher.

He lives in a room on Main Street in Worcester overlooking “ground zero” the neighborhood adjacent to the location that formerly housed the “PIP Shelter”.

Gary accompanied me one night some time back when a friend was moving, and I needed some extra hands to help. I was not aware that he was so inebriated that he could barely function. He was a huge embarrassment for me, and said some inappropriate things to a mutual woman friend while there.

Really raunchy things; and the woman he said them too is a married woman.

My friend who was moving was beside herself, and justifiably upset with me for bringing a drunk to a moving party.

Gary was so drunk; he slipped and fell on the stairs, not once, but twice, the second time kicking out one of the balusters in the hand rail going down the stairs.

Gary and I had an interesting conversation on the way home after that. I have a number of years in recovery from alcoholism myself, and I urged Gary to consider stopping his drinking, and concentrate on his artwork, as he is a very talented painter when not under the influence of alcohol.

I am pleased to report that perhaps that was the incident that finally got through to Gary, because he has been sober for 30 days as of today.

He goes to the street ministry that comes to our neighborhood every Saturday, and the Reverend Richie Gonzalez has been helping Gary with inspirational messages and counsel from the good book.

When Gary drank, he drank Vodka, and lots of it. It was so bad, that his hands would shake uncontrollably and he could not hold a paintbrush steadily in his hand to paint. I have a couple of his paintings, and they are very well done, he even made the frames that they are in.

Turns out the woman he accosted with vile language is an artist of some renown who has her own gallery on Greenwood Street and is like me, a friend of Bill W. and is more than willing to help Gary with his addiction problem. She has consented to display some of his paintings in her gallery.

Worcester is full of people in the throes of addiction, like most large urban areas throughout America of this day and age, and there are a surprising number of people like the woman and myself who are willing to help people into recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

In fact the woman who was moving was also concerned about Gary’s well being and sent him a gift bag with some nice presents in it.

The outpouring of concern and caring shown by all of us had a lot to do with his decision to stop drinking and concentrate on creating beautiful paintings. At least I believe that to be the case.

It took a concerted effort of many people to influence Gary in a positive way to stop killing himself slowly with alcohol, and start on the long road to sobriety.

It was not simply the talk I had with him, or the embarrassment he felt when told how he acted inappropriately the day of the move, or the Reverend Gonzalez and his counsel, but rather a combination of support from all these people to show Gary that life is worth living, and you can live better sober than you can when inebriated to the point that you cannot function normally in society.

There are lots of Gary’s in our society that could benefit from intervention from concerned citizens that are willing to take the time to try and help someone for the sake of helping them, if for no other reason.

We all see what happens to people like Gary when left to their own devices.

I am going to be there for Gary when he needs help overcoming his alcohol addiction, it is part of my own recovery process to help other people achieve sobriety. It helps me to help others, the more I do, the more I get, not in monetary gain, but in spiritual progress.

If you know someone who is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction or a combination of both, reach out to them with an offer of support by being there to listen to their problems, counsel them in the fact that none of their problems will get any better by continuing to drink or drug, and call someone to offer help. There are several organizations that are there for people like Gary, you can call A.A. or N.A. You can talk to the people that answer those lines about having someone come to see the individual and do what is known as a 12 Step call on them.

It may not work, but it is worth a try. Doing nothing is not a viable option.

I am pleased at Gary’s progress, Gary himself is pleased that he has had the ability to put down the vodka, and be sober for the last month. One day at a time, things get better.

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.

Inner-city winter wrap-up!

By Ron O’Clair

This past winter will go down in the history books for total snowfall accumulation in the Worcester area. I know because I am responsible as the building and property manager to remove the snow from the sidewalks bordering the various properties that I have been tasked to take care of.

This year I got smart, and paid other people to do the shoveling while I used my truck to plow and make the money to pay the people who shoveled for me, rather than break my back doing all the shoveling myself as I had done for many of the previous winters. It was not my intention to do this, I got flagged down during the February 8th Blizzard by a few people who saw my plow, and asked if I would plow them out. I agreed, and with the next blizzard they wanted me to do them again, so I guess they are now my clients, and I have a route to plow. As they are on the way to the properties I am responsible to shovel, it works for all concerned.

While on the subject of snow removal, I want to thank Mr. Bill Spellane of Spellane Auto Body on Wellington Street for having had his employee operating the bobcat clear the snow in front of the 703-711 Main Street property after the first blizzard, and for doing it for free as part of a “good neighbor” policy. I don’t think I made it clear that he did that at no cost to me or the owner of this property, and he deserves the recognition because there are not many people like Bill Spellane left, once again, thank you Mr. Spellane. I’ve seen the good work his shop puts out, so if you need body work, take it to Bill Spellane.

As some of my readers know, I did a story on identity theft a while back, and I recently came across a couple of places where you can report if you have been the victim of identity theft or a “phishing” scam. If you were the victim of identity theft and someone used your information to get a credit card in your name you can contact the government at: www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov to file a complaint. You can also contact the government to report a “Phishing” scam at: phishing-report@us-cert.gov

I did not have these places to report what happened to me when my hotmail account got hijacked or when someone opened a credit card account in my name and I had a hell of a time getting all that straightened out, but I forwarded the suspicious E-mails that I have gotten supposedly from reliable sources that ask for sensitive information and threaten to cancel your account if you do not reply to them. Do not fall for this scam. Legitimate sources do not ask for your sensitive information such as passwords or social security numbers. Never give them out, or you are just asking for trouble. I found this stuff out when I filled out the Walmart survey and found these Internet addresses listed there.

If you have already given out your information, change your passwords on your E-mail accounts right away for your own protection, it makes sense to change them periodically anyway as I found out the hard way.

I see the foot patrol officers walking their beat around my neighborhood, and hope that they continue doing that for the foreseeable future in the neighborhood surrounding the PIP Shelter which still suffers from having the shelter located here. I have noticed that I have to kick out people from the private property who are engaged in illegal drug usage. Some things never change, or it takes a long time to see any change at any rate. Some progress has been made towards cleaning up this neighborhood, and I would hate to see it erode back into what it once was, which was intolerable. The warm weather is coming and with it generally comes trouble in the neighborhood with people using the sidewalks for everything other than walking.

I have to give the Worcester Police credit for making people move along and stop loitering all over the place as should have been done right along. There was a time a few years back when people made a habit of camping out on the public sidewalks, and the police would drive right by without doing anything about it, which led to an intolerable situation for those who live in the area and who had to go into the street to navigate the area due to people sprawled out intoxicated and obstructing the sidewalks. They still do on occasion, but not nearly as bad as before.

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.

Blizzed Out!

By Ron O’Clair

Ground Zero Blizzard of 2013 – next to the P.I.P. homeless shelter on Charlton Street (Main South).

I’d like to share with you reader’s my experiences during the recent storm that hit us here in Worcester pretty damn hard. Living and working right beside the homeless shelter has been the bane of my existence for quite some time, since July of 1996 to be exact.

As many of you know I have been an active supporter and advocate of reclaiming the neighborhood around the shelter from the forces of depravity that have been trying to destroy it for many years. I have done everything in my power through the printed word to bring attention to the problems plaguing the neighborhood due to it being the area that the shelter continues, despite all promises to the contrary to provide lodging and sustenance to the City of Worcester homeless population.

At various times I have been for and against the shelter over these many years. I also have been the person directly responsible for the property that is adjacent to the shelter as the building superintendent of the commercial and residential building on the other side of Charlton Street from the shelter, since 16 June, 2003.

That responsibility is the prime reason that I became against the location of the shelter, rather than the ardent supporter I had once been. After all, there is a true need for a shelter of the type that personifies the PIP, and there are legitimate cases of people in need through no fault of their own for temporary assistance finding gainful employment and permanent housing due to various causes. Then there are the ones that use the shelter solely as a resource to continue to imbibe in illegal substances, or alcohol rather than to be responsible and pay for their own lodging. As long as they are going to get housing, they see no need to change their drug dependant habits, and continue being a drain on the economy funded by the taxpayers among us.

Part of my responsibilities as the building superintendent is snow removal, and I sure as hell had a job of it this time. I am responsible to remove the accumulated snow from not just this one, but three properties owned by the landlord who owns this building. It is an onerous task when there are only 3-6 inches, never mind the amounts we got during this blizzard of February 8-9th.

I am fortunate enough to have my own plow truck, and am able to plow the driveway for the tenants with it. The sidewalks have to be either shoveled or snow blown by City Ordnance within ten hours of the end of the storm. That is the property owner’s responsibility and through the deal that I have with Mr. Romero, it becomes my responsibility.
Normally I do all of the brunt work myself, with the end result being a very sore back, and a desire never to have to do it again. Sometimes I will hire out for labor to help with the shoveling while I tend to the plowing duties or get one of my friends to help out.

This time I hired two people, Michael P., one of my tenants, and a guy named Joseph who approached me as I was loading up the truck to head out to take care of the other two properties, Oread, and Greenwood Streets.
Joseph happens to be a shelter resident who says he is from New Hampshire, and has Sicilian and Puerto Rican heritage. He said he was in need of money and was willing to shovel snow to earn some of it, so I settled with him for a fair wage and took him out on the jobs. Unlike the people that hold signs saying they will work for food, or hungry please help, this guy approached me in my hour of need with a bonifide request to lighten my load, and make himself some cash money for his efforts. It seemed like a win – win situation so I accepted his offer.

Sad to say, most of those that stand out there on the corners of various streets in our fair City with signs begging for money that say they will work for food in actuality are only interested in free handouts to buy alcohol or drugs, not food. If it is food they want, they eat at the Mustard Seed, the PIP, or the Salvation Army and spend all they connive out of unsuspecting motorists on crack cocaine or heroin.

I don’t know what Joseph intended to do with his money, but I do know that he earned it honestly and fairly. It was well worth it to me to save me from a terrific backache. This was one of few positive experiences that I have had from a shelter resident. Most other encounters are from those that continually trespass onto the private property to hide in the shadows and shoot up, or smoke crack cocaine, and litter up the property with all manner of trash they leave behind that it ends up being my responsibility to clean up.

Most of the neighborhood residents and business owner’s are fed up with the lawlessness that has been allowed to continue for far too long. It is the same people doing the same criminal activity day after day without pause. We see these people, know who they are, and call the police to report them breaking the law, yet nothing ever happens to them, and they are out there the next day, business as usual.

I found myself in quite a bind due to the amount of snow that had accumulated rapidly in front of the building from the storm before I got out there to deal with it. I should have gotten out there a couple of hours sooner. The entire front of the building had drifted over with snow that was at least as high as my waist, and in some spots higher. There was no way I could remove that amount of snow, even if I had a whole crew of Joseph’s to help me. I could not plow it off as I like to do because the snow piled up faster than I had anticipated and it was too heavy for my GMC Sierra to push. In fact I got stuck in front of Multi-Services at 705 Main Street trying to clear the sidewalk in front of my property and the Emanuel Baptist Church as I like to do to be a good neighbor. Reverend Wright can testify that I have plowed or snow blown in front of his property many times in the past just to help out someone else for the satisfaction of doing for someone else without expecting anything in return.

It makes me feel good about myself when I help someone else. This was paid forward to me this storm when I found myself well and truly flucked by the amount of snow remaining on the sidewalks in front of the property. I was desperate for a solution to my problem when I noticed that Spellane Auto Body on Wellington Street was using a Bobcat to remove the mounds of snow obstructing their sidewalks. I thought to myself, this is what is needed to do the job, and I inquired of the driver if he would do in front of my building and how much it would cost if he did.

Well, he was only an employee and directed me to see the owner of the Auto Body who was on Murray Avenue engaged in a conversation with two DPW workers in a City truck. I went up to his window, and asked Bill Spellane if I could hire out the Bobcat, and how much would it cost to do the front of my building which used to house Berger’s Army & Navy.

Bill knew exactly which property it was when I mentioned Paul Berger’s old business which was here for many a year before Paul retired and moved to Florida after selling the building to Julio Romero in March of 2003. Bill and I had a wonderful talk concerning the neighborhood, and being in the environs of the PIP all these years. I told him how Julio worked in the Boston Hotel Industry and drove tractor trailer truck to save enough money to put the down payment on the property, and how he was a native of El Salvador before becoming an American citizen. I also told him how Julio was dismayed to find the building overrun with crack heads, junkies and prostitutes when he took possession. It was so bad back in early 2003 before I took over the management duties that the City of Worcester was taking steps to take the property like they did to the owner of 5 Sycamore Street due to that property being a hotbed of illegal activity.

Poor Julio spent his life savings buying the property, and found himself about to lose it all due to it being a revolving door crack house because of certain of the tenants that Paul Berger had rented too. Julio had nothing to do with filling the place with deadbeats; it was full enough when he bought the place.

Oh the stories I could tell of the battle to reclaim this building if I only could find the time and the space to write them. I had planned a book entitled “A room at Berger’s” but never got around to writing it. I took a stand because this was my home, I had been here since July 1996, and my sainted dear departed mother had once worked at the Spanish Grille Restaurant when I was a boy. I felt duty bound to preserve the building in my mother’s memory.

Well, anyway, this tale is getting too long, I wanted to thank Mr. Bill Spellane for his extending a helping hand to a neighbor in distress, and for having the graciousness to do it out of his heart, and not for any money that I might have paid to him, I thank you Bill, and after speaking to Julio, He thanks you also.

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