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Rosie’s Place
Offering Women Shelter and Hope
by Andrea Cleghorn

From Chapter 1: Beach (continued)

Despite the good times, Sarah says Rosie’s plan was not set up to make it comfortable for her to stay. She knew she needed to find something more permanent. When it was time to leave Rosie’s, she filled out twenty housing applications in four hours. She moved into a room in one of the lodging houses connected to another shelter a mile away. Unlike her room at Rosie’s, this room came with a key and a bill that had to be paid.
It wasn’t as good as Rosie’s; she didn’t like the people as much, she says. Still, she stayed there for fifteen months, then finally got her own apartment.
Every gain in Sarah’s independence has been matched by a responsibility to be met. “That was so hard, being on my own in an apartment. Instead of one bill, I had four. I had to pay rent, lights, gas, and phone. All of a sudden I had to do everything—take out the trash! It was really hard for me.”
Now Sarah moves around Rosie’s with braids bouncing, her brown eyes bright. Instead of crying all the time, she goes to Narcotics Anonymous and talks. She knows everyone at Rosie’s and jokes with the women; she is a reliably buoyant presence. Beneath her sunny surface, however, Sarah says there lies low self-esteem, degradation, substitution, rationalization. “I have all of those. I’m aware of it. I try to pick myself up and not do the things I’ve been doing.”
For Sarah, most days are spent working in Rosie’s clothing room, a volunteer job she has taken on. At one time she worked the conveyor belt in a recycling center. Now she sorts the contents of large plastic bags.

As she works in the clothing room, Sarah watches the ebb and flow of the black plastic bags, a river that never dries up. At times she looks up and groans, knowing there is no way she will get done. Just when the room is finally in order, when everything is on hangers and sorted by size, when she can get down to the subtleties—maybe even start sorting by style—more bags arrive.

The philosophy at Rosie’s Place is that the women are guests, never clients. The idea comes from the early days when founder Kip Tiernan decided that the women who came to Rosie’s should be treated as you would treat guests in your own home. Would guests be expected to serve themselves dinner or wash the dishes? No. If Kip sees someone donate a half-box of dusting powder or a sweater with no buttons, she is irate. “Would you give this as a gift to your sister? No? Then why do you think one of our guests would want it?”
Sarah has found that paying attention to Rosie’s philosophy makes her clothing room sorting job easier. If something doesn’t look good to her, she tosses it back into the plastic bag. Some of the clothing is out of style, decades out of style, the way she sees it. “But most people give good stuff, though. A lot of people don’t even ask for receipts.”
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