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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

November 2005 Issue

A Healing Refuge for Homeless Women
Estelleís Garden in Boston offers women a respite from the street.

By Roy Brown

A Healing Refuge for Homeless Women
Courtesy Carol R. Johnson Associates

Her stage name was Rosemary Dale, and she still uses it when talking with strangers. Born to Vaudevillean parents, Dale joined their act as a singer, dancer, and acrobat when she was eight. She recalls singing a duet of "Ainít She Sweet" with her six-year-old sister that brought down the house. As a young woman in the 1930s and 1940s, she performed as a chorus girl in Bostonís best nightclubs—the Latin Quarter, the Brown Derby, the Coconut Grove.

Today, at 85, she is still pretty, with clear blue eyes and shoulder-length gray hair. Between sips of coffee in the dining room at Bostonís Pine Street Inn, she flashes a show-biz smile. "I can still do backbends," she says.

Dale says she has resided at this private nonprofit homeless shelter for about a year. Before that, she lived in an apartment a few blocks away but left when a male acquaintance began pestering her. "He was a guy on the make who didnít want to take no for an answer," she explains. "I moved without leaving a forwarding address."

Between leaving her apartment and arriving here, Dale bounced around, staying with friends. "I did it for quite a while because I have nice friends—but you want them to stay friends," she says. Although she has three daughters in other parts of the country, Dale thought it equally ill-advised to move in with any of them.

Finally, feeling she had no other option, she spent a few terrifying nights on the street. "I didnít sleep," she recalls. "I was lucky. I ran across men and women who were beaten up and hospitalized. Women get raped. There are some bad people out there. I donít know why they didnít find me."

Since arriving at the Pine Street Inn, Dale says she hasnít been hassled by men—or even seen any. "I didnít even know men were at Pine Street for a long time after I came here," she says. Although the inn comprises a six-story Menís Inn as well as the four-story Womenís Inn, each has a separate entrance on different sides of the large building, separated by staff offices and a cavernous kitchen. The organization provides daily meals for about 800 people, permanent housing for 350, emergency shelter and transitional programs for 700, and street outreach services to 200 people a day.

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