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A visit to the Last House on the Block

I paid a visit Friday to what’s called “The Last House on the Block.”


Sister Therese O’Sullivan, an old friend, was waiting.

The St. Martin de Porres House of Hope is a converted four-story Catholic grammar school in Woodlawn that for more than three decades has operated as a homeless shelter for women and children. Most of the women are in drug and alcohol recovery. Some are homeless for a litany of other reasons.

Years ago, a resident who became one of the shelter’s first success stories gave it its other name because, for her, it really was The Last House On The Block. It was, she feared, the last stop in a downward journey. Instead, it was her first step in an upward direction.

“Now everyone calls it that,” said Sr. Therese, “because you walk in those front doors and you don’t come out the same.”

Sr. Therese is 76.

In Catholic nun terms, that’s too young for retirement. And besides, who would replace her? I can see the job posting now:

WANTED: Someone with executive experience to be on call 24/7, live on premises, and run a shelter and recovery center offering day care, parenting classes, psychological counseling, anger management and health care. Applicant must also oversee a century old brick building with clanging radiators and brittle pipes in constant need of repair. In addition to other administrative duties, applicant must tirelessly fundraise. And, finally, when there’s time, get to know the actual women and children being served. Salary? If applicant is a member of a religious community, that applicant will turn over her/his full paycheck to his/her community in exchange for a $600/month allowance for all living expenses.