Thanksgiving for the homeless at the Pine Street Inn

A cadre of officials and Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy were carving turkeys on Thanksgiving outside the Pine Street Inn, New England’s largest homeless shelter, while one of its guests, Pamela Muise, stood off to the side with a walker packed with almost everything she owned.

The walker was due to the arthritis that had spread throughout her body. The belongings were mostly clothes, a phone and the Chromebook she was given for a class she was taking to learn how to use it.

Two and a half years ago, the friend she had been staying with threw her out in mid-winter, and she slept under a bridge for three nights until police brought her to the shelter.

“It was a godsend that they brought me here,” said Muise, 66. “It was a blessing.”

But the road to Thanksgiving at Pine Street has been a long one.

A Lowell native, Muise and her mother moved to Somerville when she was two. She graduated from Somerville High School and, like many of her friends, married her high school sweetheart. But he turned out to be anything but sweet, Muise said.

“He used to come up from behind me and choke me and drag me on the floor,” she said. “I took many beatings from him to protect our daughter.”

The final straw was when he slapped their daughter across the face and made her mouth bleed, Muise said.

She left with her daughter and moved around a lot, and he spent a few years in jail. When he got out, he stalked her. So they went to live with friends in Nova Scotia because Muise was told he couldn’t cross the border if he had a criminal record.

After their divorce, their daughter returned to Somerville to live with her grandmother because she was 18 and missed her friends and boyfriend.

Muise eventually returned to Massachusetts, too, and continued to wander, from Everett to Wakefield to Saugus to Melrose.

“Housing stability has to be the foundation of our recovery,” Mayor Michelle Wu said at yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner. “Housing is health, housing is safety, housing is opportunity. And without that foundation, every other issue that we’re working on for our residents is much more complicated. So this is where we need to put our resources and really focus so that everyone has that shot.”

For 40 years, Muise was a secretary until she suffered a stroke in 1997. She’s lived on disability since.

She lived with a cousin for a dozen years, and then found an apartment in Maynard, but the owner passed away, and his children sold the house. Then she moved to New Mexico, where she took care of her parents until they died.

It was there that she met a man, now her fiance, at a diner.

“He said, ‘I’ve seen you here before. Do you mind if I sit with you and have coffee?’ ” Muise said. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t mind at all.’ ”

He told her he was on leave from the Army, and after his leave ended, the two wrote back and forth.

“He said, ‘I’m going to marry you one day,’ ” Muise said and smiled.

The two traveled around when he was home on leave, and while he was away, she decided to come back and live with her daughter and then the friend who threw her out during the winter, leading to her stay at the Pine Street Inn.

She doesn’t plan to stay much longer, though.

Her fiance is retiring from the Army, she said, and she’s hoping to live with him in January.

In the meantime, she’ll stay at Pine Street, and be grateful she has at least a temporary home.

“The staff here is kind,” she said, “and they make holidays like Thanksgiving as special as they can.”

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