When Harriet Karr boarded a plane from Los Angeles to New York City more than 30 years ago, she was overcome by profound loss. The Hollywood screenwriter had just learned of the suicide of April Savino, a 19-year-old homeless girl she had shadowed in Grand Central Terminal for a new screenplay. Harriet had traveled to New York to capture the dreams of this girl, who struggled with addiction and poverty. Now, she was returning to say her goodbyes.
While Harriet was on the plane, George McDonald sat in his tiny Single Room Occupancy unit, preparing April’s eulogy. Speaking on behalf of homeless people was a duty he met with increasing frequency in the late 1980s. And while the people George served sandwiches to in Grand Central Terminal for 700 consecutive nights appreciated the food, he knew what they really needed was a room and a job to pay for it.
That Christmas morning, George experienced another tragic loss: the death of a homeless woman he befriended—known only as “Mama” by those living in Grand Central Terminal—of pneumonia after being evicted by transit police into freezing temperatures the night before. George realized that merely providing clothing and food would never create real change.
It was in Mama’s memory that George founded The Doe Fund. But it was April’s story that brought George and Harriet together for a lifetime of service. Harriet was moved by the passion of George’s eulogy for April, and six months later, they married and began helping homeless people rebuild lives. Together, they created Ready, Willing & Able.
Designed to provide economic opportunity to homeless men, Ready, Willing & Able quickly proved equally effective in transitioning formerly incarcerated men into mainstream society. Today, 30 years after its founding, Ready, Willing & Able has helped more than 23,000 men transform their lives.