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

From Chapter 4: Open House

The commitment to HIV-positive women began in 1991, when a three-bedroom apartment in one of Rosie’s two auxiliary residences was rehabbed as a handicapped-accessible apartment for HIV-positive women. Molly Griffin, who had worked in social service programs for fifteen years and at the Hospice at Mission Hill, was hired to be the residence manager. Molly knew from her time spent working in the hospice that women usually have no one to care for them when they get sick, even though they have spent their lives taking care of their families.
As an increasing number of Rosie’s guests went public with their HIV status, the board of directors of Rosie’s Place decided to provide housing specifically for them. Subcommittees looked into it, and Julie Brandlen visited programs in Boston and New York.
There was agreement that the housing shouldn’t be a halfway house or have an institutional setting. Everyone involved knew the project had to operate in line with the mission of Rosie’s Place, but initially no one really knew exactly how that would be.
“I had a great opportunity to shape and create the program in 1991. We started small, with just three women, and wanted to find out what worked and what didn’t,” Molly says. “The whole process of getting into the house was so painful and prolonged at times, because of all the political shenanigans. Moving in there was really difficult.”
For Molly, the house in Dorchester was a bit of a letdown. The women were really excited about moving to an aesthetically beautiful house, about being on a side street and having green space, but they didn’t realize what would come along with the house. The population would more than triple in size, the staff would increase, and the coziness of the one, three-person apartment would be gone.

Frannie was one of the three women who came to the house in Dorchester from Rosie’s original HIV apartment. By that time, her AIDS was well advanced. Frannie was a quiet woman, a gentle person who kept to herself, and she was addicted to crack cocaine. She had an associate of arts degree in early childhood education—she was good with children and liked them. She also had a son who had already lost his father to AIDS. . . .
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