A Voice From the Early Days: Warren Strom

As part of our 50th anniversary, we will be sharing stories from those who were here at the beginning. The following excerpt was pulled from an interview with Warren Strom, who is now 89 years old.

I was born in Waltham, and moved to Boston in 1943 when I turned 14 years old. I joined the Army and served in the Korean War. When I returned from the war, I was homeless for many years. I suffered from alcoholism and finally ended up in a halfway house. It was there that I heard about Pine Street Inn, and what they were doing for guys like me. At that time, Pine Street was the only shelter in town.

I started to volunteer a couple nights a week at Pine Street, spending time talking to the guys. One day, Paul Sullivan (a founder and first Director of Pine Street) asked me if I wanted a job. I started taking care of the guys and keeping order in the shelter.

There were 200 beds but there were so many more guys sleeping in the lobby. It was the only way to keep them alive. It was a crime to sleep on the street at that time, so you’d get arrested. The main thing was to keep the guys alive.

We didn’t have a big staff at Pine Street, but the people were really dedicated. Paul Sullivan would come in at 9:00 a.m. and stay until midnight. He’d go to the Boston City Hospital and make sure the guests got taken care of. He truly, truly cared about the guests.

I remember we had a really small kitchen, so during Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d load up the trucks with turkeys. We passed them around to volunteers in the community who would cook them, and I’d bring them back for the guys. Talk about a community effort!

After 30 years at Pine Street, I finally retired at age 75. Now I’m 89 and live in Pine Street’s housing. There have been lots of changes since I left, but I think they are all for the best. Lyndia Downie is great – she’s really getting stuff done.

If you have a Pine Street memory you would like to share, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at anniversary@pinestreetinn.org.