BOSTON (CBS) – Most people know the Pine Street Inn as an emergency homeless shelter in Boston.

But it’s much more than their three locations in the city.

The agency has 36 housing sites across the area.

One of them is a four-story brownstone in the South End.

You’d never know from the outside that it’s part of the Pine Street Inn’s ever-expanding network of more permanent housing.

It is a building of tiny studio apartments, known as micro-units. The rooms are small, but bright, clean and warm with tiny kitchens and bathrooms.

The Pine Street Inn's brownstone of micro-units in the South End. (Photo by Karen Twomey - WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

The Pine Street Inn’s brownstone of micro-units in the South End. (Photo by Karen Twomey – WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

“As of about two years ago, we have more housing units than we have shelter beds,” Lyndia Downie, the executive director of the Pine Street, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

Downie said many of the residents had slept outside for years.

“There are people who have had very rough roads and been homeless a long time. They’re now living there. They’re paying one-third of their income towards the rent,” she said.

Downie believes you can’t end homelessness simply by reacting to crisis. Instead, every homeless person has a story that should be heard.

There’s the case of one young woman who became too old for foster care, had no place to go and ended up sleeping in a laundromat.

“She got a full-time job in retail now, she paid her own rent, she got her own apartment,” said Downie.

She believes if the goal is to end the cycle of homelessness, then there has to be a bridge between nothing and something.

A Pine Street Inn micro-unit in the South End. (Photo by Karen Twomey - WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

A Pine Street Inn micro-unit in the South End. (Photo by Karen Twomey – WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

Downie calls these micro-units cost-effective and life-changing.

“What a magnificent thing it is to be able to say, I have my own key now, I have my own space. I can actually come home after work and put my feet up, read, I can take a walk, I can do my own grocery shopping, I can do my own laundry,” she said.

“Those are things you don’t get to do when you’re in a shelter or on the street. They’re small things, but they are huge things when you’re no longer homeless.”

For information, visit the Pine Street Inn’s website.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports

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