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“Shelter is only for sleeping. Here, I live.”
Andre doesn’t like to talk about his teenage years. He had been living a normal life in France until that abruptly, violently changed with invasion by the Nazis. He also won’t talk about his time in a concentration camp in Germany other than to say that his entire family was killed, leaving him orphaned.
As soon as he got out, the American Red Cross helped him come to New Orleans where a French-American couple adopted him. He returned to school briefly, but eventually went needed to go to work. He had a talent for cooking so he got work as a chef. In the mid-1960’s, he moved to Boston and cooked in several area hotels. After that, he moved around quite a bit, and continued working as a chef. It was hard work, he says now, but he loved being a chef. He worked until his early 70’s, when he became physically unable to keep up with the demands of the job. Without any income, he couldn’t afford rent, and he became homeless.
With no place to turn, he ended up in an emergency shelter. It was difficult in the shelter. “There were all different kinds of people there. You never knew what was going to happen.” Soon, he became a client of ELAHP’s transitional program within the Pine Street Inn. Even though he was still in the shelter, he felt safer being in a space that was just for older men, and he made some connections with the other people in the program. That was near the end of 2001.
Over the next several months, his ELAHP Case Manager helped him find subsidized housing, and in the spring of 2002, he left the shelter for an apartment on Beacon Hill. He was thrilled, he said, because he once again had a kitchen, and could go back to cooking. He cooked for himself, and sometimes cooked for his neighbors as well. His Case Manager continued to help him unravel his immigration status, which was difficult due to his complicated past. She also helped him apply for benefits and medical insurance.
In 2005, with his health declining, Andre transitioned to a new elderly housing development, with more services on-site and closer to his doctor. Of his new apartment, Andre says, “shelter is only for sleeping. Here, I live.” In 2009, he finally fulfilled his long-time dream and became a United States citizen. He was critically ill at the time, so his Case Manager arranged to have the Immigration official come to his apartment to swear him in.
Although his homemaker shops for him because his mobility is now very limited, Andre still cooks for himself, and enjoys that immensely. When he can, he attends social events in the building. Now 82, he brushes off any talk of the difficulties he has been through in his life. He even has some fond memories of his days in shelter, remembering his friends, there, and finding help, and hope.