Meet Women Who Started Over
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the September 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
From Nonprofit Staffer to Nonprofit Founder—Rosanne Haggerty, 47
In 1982 Rosanne Haggerty took a volunteer job with Covenant House New York, a shelter for at-risk youth. Eight years later, she would create Common Ground, an innovative solution to housing the homeless in Manhattan.
Did she know this would be her life's work when she started volunteering? No, I kept thinking I'd do it for one more year, then go back to a conventional career path. I bought an updated LSAT study guide every summer.
Why didn't she go to law school? When the 735-room, filthy, decrepit Times Square Hotel (a.k.a. Homeless Hell) went bankrupt in the late 1980s, I wanted someone to turn it into quality supportive housing—with employment services, a clinic, and caseworkers right in the building. Not a shelter but permanent, dignified housing. Because I'd been development coordinator for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, I knew what questions financiers, tenants, and the city would need answered, and I wrote up a plan. Everyone I talked to was too overcommitted to take it on. They all agreed, though, that someone really ought to do it. Finally, I thought, "Oh, someone is me." In 1993 the first new tenants moved in. It became the largest example of permanent, supportive housing for individuals in the country. We've opened four others in New York [including the Prince George, above] and are helping to create similar projects in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Australia.
Ever think about becoming a lawyer? No, I bought my last LSAT guide in 1985.