As a real estate attorney, my days are filled with contracts to buy houses, questions on condo costs, and bank qualifications for mortgage loans - all geared to getting our clients into their new homes. So, when I recently cooked and served dinner at the Cambridge Heading Home Shelter where residents have no home....it was a crash course in life on the other side of the fence!
Heading Home is a local non-profit group providing emergency, transitional and permanent housing and support services to low income and homeless families and individuals in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Malden, Everett and Quincy. In 2011, Heading Home served more than 2,000 people and 91% of their clients remain permanently housed, as the staff helps with home searches, life-skills development, financial literary, and employment services.
On this Monday night, we joined several "chefs" from Temple Shalom in Newton, to cook, serve supper, and talk with the 20+ residents who call this Cambridge apartment house...home. We learned quickly that homelessness comes in all shapes and sizes - some with amazing stories to tell.
"I'm just too nervous to eat tonight," said a wide-eyed blonde gal sporting a large ponytail."I'm moving out tomorrow into my new home. I'm just too excited!"
We all said later that we were dying to ask more about her shelter story, but we didn't want to pry.
With Gary Johnston, no one had to ask twice. A local homeless celebrity, Gary told us all about his blog, firstname.lastname@example.org and then pulled out a camera to commemorate our supper for his website story.
And then there was the resident who broke our hearts.
Rising again after finishing one plate of food, this 20-something got back into the line, saying "I haven't eaten all day." We couldn't load the chicken on the plate fast enough.
One of the residents capped off the evening festivites by saying out loud what many of us were already thinking: "These teenage boys (Ben Conescu and Gabe Dreyer) could have been out on dates tonight....but instead, they are here, serving us dinner. Amazing!"