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    NYT strikes poignant note with mention of elderly Irish woman

    By Noreen Bowden | September 19, 2009

    There’s a poignant Irish-related note in a New York Times article about the residents of a single-room occupancy hotel in Manhattan. Single-room occupancy hotels offer a bedroom and shared bathroom facilities; the one in this story has no kitchen. The hotels are dying out in New York City, but were once a common housing option for the working poor.

    The report briefly mentions a woman who arrived at the SRO, which is on Third Ave and 74th Street, at around the age of 50 in the 1970s:

    “When I saw it I thought it was terrible,? said a tenant who introduced herself only as Mary and said she took a room shortly after arriving from Ireland 35 years ago. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was here because I had always lived in private homes. I took it for a month or maybe six months. Then time went on and I got accustomed to it.?

    Mary, 84, added, “I wouldn’t leave for anything.?

    SRO occupants are vulnerable; the vast majority of these inexpensive housing units have closed as the owners turned them into far more lucrative, larger living spaces. Many of the older residents of this SRO are paying as little as $10 a night; the owners rely on rent from J. G. Melon, an upscale pub located on the ground floor, for income from the five-story building.

    Here’s hoping Mary will be secure in her home for as long as she needs it.

    That reminds me that the American Ireland Funds has started a fund for vulnerable immigrants living in the US; it’s called The Forgotten Irish Campaign and it’s modeled on a similar campaign in Britain.

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