“Homeless people should not be forced to live on the streets, in cars or in motels. It shouldn’t happen. There’s no justifiable reason for someone to be without a place to live; it’s a basic right.”
~ Mary Jane Lee, founder of Citizens Inn, Inc.
Citizens Inn, formally Citizens for Adequate Housing was founded in 1983 by Mary Jane Lee. Over the past 34 years, much has changed at Citizens. It has grown from one small program (the Citizens Inn Between shelter) to an umbrella organization for three programs located in seven buildings. Yet much remains the same, as families continue to struggle to stay housed.
Mary Jane Lee was distressed to learn that a neighbor with two children was about to become homeless. She went into action, working through St. John’s Church in Peabody, and gathered a group of local residents to address the growing problem of family homelessness. They incorporated Citizens for Adequate Housing in June 1983, and by 1985 had opened their first shelter, the Citizens Inn Between, in a leased building on Main Street, Peabody.
In 1987 Citizens purchased 25 Holten Street, and moved Citizens Inn Between to that welcoming Victorian house, which now provides emergency shelter for six families. When the shelter opened, families usually were able to find housing and move on within a few months. Housing has become so scarce and so much more expensive that families now generally remain at Citizens Inn Between for six months to one year while looking for permanent housing.
Three years after Citizens Inn Between moved to Holten Street, it became apparent that for some families, homelessness was a result of substance abuse. If these families were going to become stable enough to stay housed, their shelter needed to include a recovery program. And so, Citizens Inn Transition was established in 1990 in the former Jewish Community Center building on Washington Street Peabody.
The agency moved into the next logical phase in the 90s: creating permanent, affordable rental housing. Our Inn Homes program now provides affordable housing to over 15 families and homelessness prevention support to many others living in communities across the North Shore.
In 2017, Citizens Inn merged with Haven from Hunger, a leading Peabody nonprofit, focused on solving food insecurity in Peabody, Salem and Lynnfield.