BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — For more than 20 years, Michele Chausse of Danvers has worked in communications for nonprofit agencies.
About three months ago, she became director of communications at the nation’s first women-only shelter, Rosie’s Place, in Boston. It’s a shelter where 20 women can live temporarily for three weeks at a time. It serves 150 lunches and 150 dinners a day, with volunteers providing the lion’s share of the services.
The job is a perfect fit for the mother of two Danvers High graduates, Eva and Charles Bramesco. During her career, Chausse has worked for nonprofits and human service agencies on the North Shore dealing with young women’s reproductive health, substance abuse and child protection issues. She most recently worked for Beverly-based Health Quarters for almost seven years before being laid off.
Why have you worked mostly for nonprofits?
I think I decided some time ago in my career, I was at a crossroads, and I had been working in bank marketing, and I was offered two jobs at one time, one was at an accounting firm and one was at a nonprofit, and I said: “I really think that I’ll be more gratified working for a nonprofit,” and I was fortunate to have the ability to do that, financially.
Did you start off in the workforce, have kids, then move back into the workforce?
I worked the entire time I had children. Because I’m in the public relations or communications arena, it’s seems like in the nonprofit world, it was more accommodating to me having children. My husband (Clinton Bramesco) works in television, and he would travel often and with very little notice, so I was able to work part time, work somewhat from home, but always continuing to stay in a challenging position and grow professionally. ... I would say a lot of the professional roads that I took in the different agencies that I worked have sort of led me to Rosie’s Place.
So, what led you to Rosie’s Place?
I was pursuing a number of different paths to finding a new job. One of them was looking online, and the Rosie’s Place job was listed on idealist.org (a website that specializes in nonprofit jobs). ... When you apply for jobs online, you almost always get an automatic response. ... I didn’t get an automatic response from Rosie’s Place, so I waited for a little bit, and I had a name luckily, and I called, and she said: “OK, well, email me again.” I still didn’t get a response. So I finally had to walk my résumé down. So, it’s funny. I might never be where I am now if I didn’t persist in saying, “I think I’m a great fit; you have got to get my stuff.”
Tell me about Rosie’s Place?
It was founded, it will be 39 years ago this coming Easter. Founded by (the late) Kip Tiernan, who lots of people know, she was an activist and really a vocal spokeswoman for people who are poor and disenfranchised. She found that women had to dress as men to get into the Pine Street Inn to get some kind of overnight services, so she said we are going to have a place just for women. She found an abandoned supermarket in the South End, and bought it for a song, and that’s when it opened. ... Since then, it has grown from providing the basic needs of overnight shelter and meals to really helping women find solutions in their lives. It’s multidimensional, there’s an education center, we have advocates who meet women where they are at.
Why do women wind up at Rosie’s Place? Is it substance abuse? Is it poverty? Is it domestic issues?
All of the above. I think the majority of women have had histories of substance abuse or mental illness. ... There are women coming to find safe harbor, fleeing domestic violence. There are women who don’t have safety nets in their lives, who might have lost a job or had a divorce, and just don’t have that financial cushion. A lot of women who we see are not homeless, but they could use a trip to our food pantry or meal a day for themselves or their children they don’t have to pay for.
As communications director, what’s your mission moving forward?
What I’m trying to do is trying to tell more, but maybe slightly different, stories about Rosie’s Place. Maybe it’s well-known, but people have one notion about it. I think we are trying to tell stories of the women we serve.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.