By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,235)
Early this afternoon Josh O’Brien, Director, Oxford Street Shelter, was awarded the city’s highest honor for his dedication and commitment to public service. City officials present included Mayor Michael Brennan, city manager Mark Rees, and Doug Gardner, director Health & Human Services. Immediate members of Josh’s famialy were also present. The ceremony took place in the State of Maine Room at City Hall.
For nearly eight years, O’Brien has led the operations of the city’s adult homeless shelter as the Director of the Oxford Street Shelter. Even during extremely challenging times, when the city has experienced record numbers of homelessness, O’Brien has worked tirelessly to provide people with a safe, respectable place to sleep at night. His commitment to this vulnerable population has ensured that those at the shelter are connected with appropriate services and thanks to his efforts and advocacy the city was able to make great strides in reducing homelessness among veterans. For a majority of the men and women crossing the threshold of Oxford Street Shelter, his efforts along with his saff have led to assisting these individuals securing stable housing within a matter of months. His insight and experience was extremely helpful to the city’s Homeless Prevention Task Force as they worked to develop a long term strategy to help prevent and reduce the incidence of homelessness within Portland.
Mayor Brennan said that as a Catholic he is taught to believe in the saints that are all around us. “We have one right here among us. It’s not easy every day to treat people in a hospitable and respectful way. Josh does that. Josh epitomizes the nature of Bob Ganley who was likewise dedicated to sheltering the homeless,” the Mayor said. John O’Brien, father of the honoree, who is in the business of providing shelter for the homeless near Boston, said: “Josh has never been afraid to be in a leadership role. He’s had a consistent willingness to teach, learn and be held accountable. “We are touched. Portland is very fortunate to have Josh. We are proud to have you as our son. We love you.” Doug Gardner said of Josh: “He’s one of the most compassionate, non-judgmental people I know. He’s always there – regardless of the time or day. Even on his day off.”
In addition to his father at the ceremony today were other family members including: his step-mother Judith Praeger, his wife, Michelle and their two children John, 11 and Molly, 8 years old. The couple met while working in a shelter in Massachusetts.