A Healing Refuge for Homeless Women
Estelleís Garden in Boston offers women a respite from the street.
By Roy Brown
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 nightclubsthe
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 friendsbut
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
menor 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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