Shirley Lamarr

Before Delancey Street, I spent 20 years with violence, drugs, and prostitution, homeless on the streets and in and out of jail. I was a third generation prostitute. I never knew my father and I barely knew my mother except that she taught me the life on the streets early. I was repeatedly beaten and sexually abused, not only as a child by people my mother brought into the home, but later by pimps and people on the streets where I lived. Horrifically, I taught my children to follow in my footsteps as fourth generation drug addicts, prostitutes and criminals. I came to Delancey Street as an alternative to a fifteen-year prison sentence. I had enormous guilt and vengeful anger. I had no skills, no education, and no hope. I stayed at Delancey Street four years where I lost a grandson to the streets, murdered in gang activity, but slowly gained back my children and grandchildren; and I obtained a high school equivalency, a diploma from vocational college, computer and secretarial skills, sales skills, and an incredible ability to love and help others. After I graduated from DSF, I worked to turn around the lives of my children and grandchildren and recently proudly watched a granddaughter spurn prostitution, the streets, drugs, and crime, and become the first in the family to graduate high school, and go to college. I ran a Safe and Sober Living Home for formerly homeless people with mental health and drug problems. I developed and currently run a county jail program for substance abusers that is modeled after Delancey Street. I have a thriving career, a full and happy family with children and grandchildren and still volunteer with troubled folks. Mostly, I have and instill in others a sense of belief and goodness and hope.

Shirley and her children and grandchildren at her birthday celebration.