Olmsted Green, its newest facility, opened in May. The 59 units are furnished by individual donors, meaning that some apartments are better appointed than others. The common areas include such touches as a gym, and a spick-and-span cafeteria, complete with a fireplace. There, last week, some residents dined on roast chicken, potatoes and greens.
“Sometimes people say ‘Wow, this is too nice,’” Hinderlie said. “We’re committed to making people’s living situation as dignified as we can.”
Mohammed Bey, 76, is still getting used to life in Olmsted Green. The longtime taxi driver lived in the house of his ex-wife, and continued to live there after she died, even though the house was not legally his. In August 2011 he was evicted and found himself homeless. He spent some time in a shelter. “That’s the worst place I’ve ever been,” he recalled. In February, he met Meredith Jones, a Hearth outreach worker, who helped him move into Olmsted Green.
“I like it here,” Bey said. Although he misses his blues and rock collection, which he lost when he was forced to move out of the house. But he has his own kitchen, where he can cook his favorite collard greens, chitlins, and pig tails — comfort food that makes it feel like home.
For Marion Davis, 71, who lives downstairs from Bey, part of the challenge of being homeless is that he uses an oxygen tank, which is not allowed in shelters. A career of stripping and waxing floors was a likely cause of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Separated from his wife, he rotated in and out of hospitals. “Like a jail house,” he described one of them.
Now, “I feel like I’m in my own house,” he said. “It feels great.”
Alvarez also said she feels grateful for her change in fortune. She has returned to writing, working on a book about what she witnessed when she was homeless.
“I was there to see how people suffered,” she said. “You never know when you will find yourself in their situations.”