NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It was 25 years ago on Christmas morning that an elderly homeless woman known only as “Mama Doe” died at Grand Central Terminal. Her death changed the way New Yorkers look at the homeless and helped start the “Doe Fund,” a program to help homeless people to become self-sufficient.
Hundreds of people who once were homeless gathered at the station to remember her on Christmas, lighting candles in her memory.
Listen: Ginny Kosola reports.
The group’s founder is George McDonald. “We’re the richest city in the world, and to have a woman literally freeze to death because she was ejected from a transportation terminal just couldn’t stand,” he said.
Some believe the model of the Doe Fund could help today’s unemployed. “If you look at the 30’s in America, FDR from New York, created the New Deal and created the public works program. We need to do that in 2011,” said civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel.
Siegel believes the Doe Fund shows how, with the right training, long-term unemployed people can become productive taxpayers.
The folks here today are the perfect examples, the models, the inspiration to show people, don’t give up on anybody in America,” he said.
Francis Norman, formerly homeless, was now working in building maintenance. “I certified myself with a boiler certificate. I certified myself with plumbing and things of that nature. I have a job right now. I feel good. I feel independent now,” he said.
Siegel was calling on Governor-elect Cuomo and President Obama to make the same happen for those who lost jobs in this recession. “Hopefully with Gov-elect Cuomo assisting President Obama, we can create those jobs.”
The Doe Fund trains long-term unemployed people to be self-sufficient taxpayers. Civil Liberties attorney Norman Siegel said it could be the model to get the victims of the recession back to work. “Build our infra-structure, create a first-rate rail system in America, there will be thousands of jobs for people,” he said.