A Long And Bumpy Road

Cambridge Journal

Macy DeLong, who used to work in Harvard's Bio Labs, now runs the Cambridge Furniture bank. From Harvard to homelessness to being a helping hand, DeLong has traveled...

After a two-year struggle with mental illness and homelessness, Macy DeLong, a former employee for almost 20 years in Harvard's biology department, says she has regained control over her life and is now committed to aiding other homeless individuals.

For the past five years, DeLong has operated the Cambridge Furniture Bank, a Central Square based agency which repairs used furniture and gives it to homeless families moving off of the streets.

Beginning in 1972, DeLong worked for Harvard's biology department, rising from a laboratory technician to a senior research associate. She says she uninitiated the creation of a bio safety office to monitor the procedures for work with live organisms.

Charles J. Ciotti, director of administration for the biological labs, says DeLong was a strong, dedicated worker.

"She was a force," he says. "If anyone needed help she would be there. She really wants to do good for people."

However, DeLong says her life took a sudden turn in 1986 when she was diagnosed as manic depressive and began to suffer cycles of hypo mania and severe depression.

Unable to continue at the biology lab, she says she took a leave of absence during which her condition worsened. Her marriage fell apart and she moved out of her house, she says.

"I went from fully-functioning to losing control in four weeks," she says. "I lived in the graveyard at Harvard Square and in the back of my car."

She says at one point she attempted suicide by swallowing cyanide.

DeLong says her co-workers in the biology department were very supportive and concerned with her deteriorating condition. "The chairmen watched someone they cared about fall apart mentally," she says.

"I still had my key and I.D. when I was on leave," she says. "I used the showers there when I was homeless."

She went to University Health Services for treatment, but says she was disappointed with the care she received there, until they recommended a non- Harvard therapist who helped her overcome her problems.

DeLong says she has not suffered another incident of depression since that episode.

While she was living on the streets in Harvard Square, DeLong says she found support and comfort from other homeless people.