Worcester’s SMOC vs THE PIP and how they help/helped our homeless

By Rosalie Tirella

PIP photos, taken a few days ago:
pics by R.T.

The Charlton rooming house, right, run by CECELIA’s old writer and pal Ron O’Clair who ate at the PIP and liked Buddy and crew but was never too thrilled with the high PIP clients who sometimes hung out on the neighborhood street. Across from Ronny’s bedroom.

SMOC photo, taken last week:

The huge SMOC building in Piedmont, located on the corner of Chandler Street and Park Ave. What untapped potential – it can be a great affordable housing complex! But SMOC, SOUTH MIDDLESEX OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL, based in Framingham, lets it go fallow. Five staffers, led by Chris Orcutt, don’t really serve Worcester’s homeless.

Let’s compare and contrast these two HUMONGOUS BUILDINGS and the nonprofits who run/ran them. First they are two of Worcester’s in-city behemoths. The PIP building is located at the corner of Main and Charlton streets, in Main South. The SMOC building located at the corner of Chandler Srreet and Park Ave. In the city’s Piedmont neighborhood.

The PIP – no longer but once owned by a local nonprofit and run by a board of directors and Executive Director Buddy Brousseau. We ran a cover story on the PIP 17 years ago in InCity Times. I went in and took pics and got a tour courtesy of Buddy; our intern went in and wrote the piece. We learned: THE PIP WAS NOT A DRUGGY FLOP HOUSE. IT WAS A COMPASSIONATE AND COMPREHENSIVE social service agency that cared for the city’s chronically homeless- often drug addicted on many levels: socially, medically, emotionally, as well as offering on the first floor hot meals at night, breakfast, showering facility, male/female sleeping quarters with clean cots with blankets. On the second floor there was the AA and NA meeting room – clean and filled with chairs. On the third floor there was a Cafe and game room where clients could drink coffee and eat fresh fruit and play board games like checkers and Monopoly. On the top floor was the commercial coffee roaster and coffee business – with some profits going to the PIP. I ought know: I went out with the coffee guy, Peter. Let’s just say Peter was …interesting. Brilliant, he had a degree from Columbus University and his MSW from UConn. He was one of the PIP’s social workers- and a terrific writer with several unpublished novels under his belt. Peter blew up the coffees roaster – donated to the PIP by Dan, owner of GOOD AS GOLD COFFEE on Green Street, back when we Baby Boomers supported each other and tried to change the world. Dan gave Peter the free roaster, Buddy gave his pal Peter the free space, I gave Peter the free ads. In a nut shell we were all taken in and screwed by the little charmer…who called me four years ago, YEARS AFTER WE HAD BROKEN UP, to leave me this message: “Hello, Rose. It’s Peter.” I thought: OH NO and deleted the message.

But I digress: the PIP had a terrific Latino doctor who monitored PIP clients’ blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Plus he bandaged them up if they came in bloody from the streets. A Saint. A million stores written about the man. There was another social worker besides Peter who advocated for the clients…there was head cook George Orcutt who cooked and cooked and cooked EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY. Another Saint, now passed, along with his mom, an old lady sweating at the kitchen stoves…George and mom catered City of Worcester events – for free. Giving back to the community. Buddy, a recovering alcoholic, called the PIP clients his “brothers and sisters” and gave everyone- including this writer – the best bear hugs. Lovable. Buddy was Lovable.

But Babs and Billy pushed and pushed and the PIP WAS CLOSED DOWN. BOUGHT BY SMOC. And there was no real game plan for Worcester’s homeless…just a patch work of inadequate places and peeps who left our homeless high and dry. So the City of Worcester became THE PIP. WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE AND FAMILIES ALL OVER WORCESTER. In cars, woods, parks, the Canal District, Street corners…

SMOC bought the old MLK BUSINESS EMPOWERMENT CENTER in Piedmont several years ago, hoping to make the huge edifice a new PIP, but abutters whined. So today SMOC has a portapotty and Director Chris Orcutt and his case manager Sammy Rivera. And a few office people. Chris, George’s son, doesn’t have the vision of Buddy or the heart of his dad. Got the job thru Worcester nepotism. SMOC, based in Framingham, has been cowed into DOING NOTHING WITH THEIR BUILDING by the city…So the building is closed for 2 weeks because Chris Orcutt gets COVID. EVERYBODY HOME ON VACA!!! There is no talk of putting in affordable studios or apartments – forget about a shelter. There are no msw social workers like my Peter, or chefs to provide meals like George Orcutt or Buddy Brousseau’s TO REALLY UTILIZE THE BUILDING AND REALIZE A VISION of caring and love for the homeless.

The closest we’ve come to truly caring for the homeless since the PIP’s demise is Father John Madden, Frank Carroll and Bill Riley of St. John’s Church on Temple Street. They’ve covered food, shelter, advocacy AND SAVED HUNDREDS OF LIVES. Bless you.