The Story of Lorraine

our employee who was homeless and now has a home

"I've been blessed."

Lorraine Carrington thoughtfully ran her fingers over her morning project, deliberately touching the fine stitching of a handful of bright cloth strips that would soon decorate the small pillow she is to sew. “I am a very spiritual person”, she said, smiling pensively. “I always was – it never left me.”

Ms. Carrington is the latest addition to 2b Design’s team. She works in 2b design’s Beyt location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a stone’s throw away from her home city of Dorchester.

Although she was brought on board to make vibrantly-toned pillows and antique French linen-shrouded lampshades, handicrafts were only recently incorporated into Ms. Carrington’s repertoire of skills. Raised by her grandmother as her mother had “other obligations”, Ms. Carrington described her childhood in a neighborhood now infamous for crime and violence: “It was much safer than it is now. Growing up wasn’t glamorous, though… I liked to be alone. I’m a people person but I always liked to be by myself.”

She was eventually trained as a nurse’s assistant, although a family tendency towards substance abuse, coupled with the birth of her daughter at a young age and the death of her partner due to gang violence pushed Ms. Carrington into a battle with alcoholism that has dictated much of her adult life. Her addiction pushed her into homelessness and a reliance on illicit activities for income. And when she was suddenly given a six-month jail term, Ms. Carrington had a breakthrough in her behavior. “I was able to finally sit with myself. The incident that let to my incarceration was all around the addiction. And this happened so that I could be incarcerated, enabling a chance at happiness and… at getting my life back on track.”

“I just wasn’t seeing the light”, she added after a moment’s pause.

In 2012 Ms. Carrington was released and let off of probation, describing the experience as “the most beautiful day of my life”. She wiped away tears as she passionately described the anger and loneliness that perpetuated her addiction. “I still get emotional but now I know how to talk about it… I’m not stuck anymore”.

And now, Ms. Carrington is living in the present. As of June 2013 she has been clean for a year and five months, living in a sober home for the past nine of those months. She is searching for an apartment where she can live independently and is anxious, albeit eager, for the approval process to be over. Ms. Carrington works at Beyt three days per week and her face lit up when she announced the 2-month anniversary of the start of her relationship with the 2b Design team. When she is not working, Ms. Carrington is making up for lost time with her daughter and her young grandson, or attending her tri-weekly meetings with the National Alcoholics Association of America. “I feel my day is accomplished by coming here in the mornings,” added Ms. Carrington. “I have a routine now.”

Ms. Carrington came to Beyt through the IMPACT employment service, run by the regional Pine Street Inn organization that serves New England’s homeless. Throughout her lifetime she participated in several programs of this nature, also trained in a culinary arts program with the same organization and at one point doing a 14-week stint at the Moving Ahead Program (MAP) with the St. Francis House. She often references specific numbers of years and months in creating a timeline of her life.

When asked about the benefits of living a sober lifestyle and holding a job, Ms. Carrington responds immediately. “Most importantly, I’m not on the streets anymore. I can take a shower. I can put on clothes. I can eat. It’s the little things – it’s really good to have a key somewhere”, she beamed, going on to describe how working at Beyt, particularly under the expertise of Benedicte and Raja, brings her peace of mind and an ability to focus – both of which Ms. Carrington said she lacked for large periods of her life. When describing her gratitude for the training that she has received through Beyt, Ms. Carrington praised its founders, stating, “Benedicte and Raja are so patient with me.” Elaborating on this point, she reflected: “this is not just a job; this is different because someone sees something in me that I never saw in myself. I will be good no matter what, as long as I don’t pick up [a drink]”.

Of equal importance is the relevance of Ms. Carrington’s struggles to those of the craftsmen and artisans from the other side of 2b Designs’ operations in the Levant, who often do represent marginalized communities in the region. Inherent to 2b Design’s mission is the local impact of 2b Design’s work in employing members of such communities.  “We would have our pasts in common”, Ms. Carrington articulated. She said it inspired her to want to meet these craftsmen and hear their stories. “The people over there are beautiful people too. And may God bless them.”

One of the other major components of 2b Design’s mission is to give new life to objects which have been discarded or broken. This parallels the opportunity that Ms. Carrington and other present and future employees from similar backgrounds are being presented with on several levels, the first of which is restoring damaged pieces. The pieces that are being restored in this enterprise come from parts of houses – gates, balconies, and windows – which are central to the preservation of life in the home, as well as the interaction of that sacred space with the surrounding community. Such objects are part of an abandoned tradition that 2b Design ensures is not forsaken or forgotten. Similarly, the company’s social endeavors mirror its employment module, giving new opportunities to those who have been neglected. And in doing so, 2b Design is making waves in the realm of social enterprises, sporting a multidimensional, multi-tier approach with substantial positive outcomes and simultaneously bridging cultures.

This resonates deeply with Ms. Carrington. “Something being old and coming from a long distance, not knowing where it’s been before it reached here… that’s like me, never knowing Benedicte and Raja, but they’ve reached out to offer me an opportunity to build my life back up and do something different.” Like the patterned, antique cloths that she grazes with her fingertips, Ms. Carrington has witnessed many hardships in her life, but she now maintains a positive outlook and has her gaze set on the present and the future.

And when asked what she would say if she were to run into someone from her past who had asked her what she is doing these days, Ms. Carrington saw herself in the question, replying, “I work for a small design store that’s just getting on its feet.  It’s starting off small, and I’m a part of their family. They chose me because they think I am a person that can grow alongside them.”

“I’ve been blessed”, she concluded.