At a time when society believed that women's place was in the home, Kip Tiernan reached out to those women who had no home. In 1974, she founded Rosie's Place, the United States' first drop-in, emergency shelter for women. Kip has been at the center of the fight for economic and social justice for nearly three decades, advocating and lobbying for affordable and accessible housing, health care, education, jobs, civil rights, and peace. She currently serves as codirector of the Poor People's United Fund, which she founded.
Born in West Haven, Connecticut, Kip lost both her parents by the time she was 11 and was raised by her grandmother. Always unconventional, she took flying lessons at age 16 and began her interest in jazz. She arrived in Boston in her early 20s and began a successful career in advertising. An active Catholic, Kip's parish work took her to St Philip's Warwick House, which was involved in civil rights and antiwar movements. In 1967, she was asked to help coordinate a press conference at St Philip's and soon after joined the team ministry because "poor people need advertising too". Her work took her into housing projects, mental institutions, jails, and hospitals, and she learnt about the effects of deinstitutionalization and the lack of a coherent public policy to address the needs of the poor and homeless. Kip has a far-reaching legacy of caring for society's most vulnerable. She understood that to most of the public, homeless women were invisible. While society intoned that women's place was in the home, many women were sleeping in cars, moving from one friend's house to another's, and selling their bodies for shelter. Kip's vision prompted the evolution of Rosie's Place from simply a shelter to an institution that offered solutions. The organization scrutinizes all sources of funding and accepts no government funds. Kip founded the Boston Food Bank and cofounded the Boston Women's Fund, Health Care for the Homeless, and Community Works. In 1980 she cofounded the Poor People's United Fund, a "spare change" funding source for grassroots community groups involved in homelessness, hunger, and access to justice, where she currently serves as codirector. In 1990, Kip established the Ethical Policy Institute. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts, and is a popular lecturer at schools and churches.
Rosie's Place Boston Food Bank Poor People's United Fund