Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Rosanne Haggerty, a 1982 graduate and a trustee of Amherst College since 1990, has received one of this year’s 23 “genius awards” given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and announced this morning. The prestigious $500,000 MacArthur Fellowships are unusual in that they are given to a wide range of artists, writers, scientists, academics and social activists, and that the recipients can do as they please with the grant.
Haggerty is the executive director of Common Ground, an organization that restores hotels and other residences in New York and makes them available to low-income and homeless people.
“Unlike many advocates” for the homeless, The New York Times wrote last year, “Ms. Haggerty is known as a canny pragmatist. Low-key but clear-eyed, described as having a laser-like focus but the ability to question herself and accept advice, Ms. Haggerty has worked successfully with both the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations to develop housing units.” Haggerty has been called “the Mother Theresa of Affordable Housing,” according to The Hartford Courant, which also reported that she said “poor or homeless people and families need not only a safe place to live, but also intensive and individualized support services for a substantial period of time. ‘There has to be a plan,’ she said. ‘Communities require an overall strategy for housing.’”
Originally from West Hartford, Conn., Haggerty majored in American studies at Amherst and was the editor of The Amherst Student. After Amherst she studied at Columbia University’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Historic Preservation. She went to work at Covenant House, a Catholic relief agency in New York, and Brooklyn Catholic Charities. In 1990, learning that a decayed and abandoned hotel in Times Square had failed to sell at auction, Haggerty founded the Common Ground Community. It has grown from a single building to a city-wide organization that manages 1,300 housing units and employs 167 people, many of them residents.