posted on July 11, 2012 08:59
Twenty years ago, Bob Murray wanted to raise awareness of housing issues across the Cape so he created a unique event called the Housing With Love Walk. He felt that a summer walk across the Cape was going to help propel the issue ahead.
In 1987, Bob Murray moved to Cape Cod with the goal to change his life.
As a 47-year-old, he’d been employed as a pharmacist in the Boston area. Despite his success in expanding his business to five stores, he wanted to start anew, with an eye to helping others.
"I looked around back then and saw that homeless residents were being ignored by their communities and felt that more needed to be done," he says, adding, "Someone had to stand up for those in need."
Flash forward 25 years and it’s obvious that Murray has made a difference. Murray has been involved with multiple social service organizations as well as the construction of hundreds of affordable housing units in many towns.
Murray began his work helping from the Harwich Family Pantry. A few years later, he led in the creation of the Harwich Ecumenical Council for the Homeless. He then headed the Falmouth Housing Authority for 16 years and now is the president of the Falmouth Housing Corporation.
"Housing is a piece of the total puzzle. You can’t solve everything with housing but it’s an anchor in any community and I was drawn to the process of putting the pieces together," he says.
Twenty years ago, Murray wanted to raise awareness of housing issues across the Cape so he created a unique event called the Housing With Love Walk. He felt that a summer walk across the Cape was going to help propel the issue ahead.
The walk, 103 miles in seven days from Provincetown to Falmouth, has grown from a small event to one that now supports 11 non-profit housing and community groups. Last year, the walk involved hundreds of participants and raised $246,000.
"It’s become like an annual reunion of sorts. This is a tight group that works together to get things done and the walk brings us back to the same page to hit the pavement to raise awareness. I get excited about it every year because it’s just so positive," he says.
Due to all of Murray’s contributions over the years, the walk’s organizers recently decided to change the name of the event to the Bob Murray Housing With Love Walk.
"I just found out the other day that it was changed. I guess they didn’t want me objecting to the attention so they just went ahead and did it," Murray says.
HECH Executive Director Pam Parmakian says Murray is an inspiration to her.
"He’s like a rock star of the housing community. If there seems to be an obstacle in an affordable housing project, he always finds solutions and never takes no for an answer. He’ll just study the parts and tear them apart and get it to work," she says.
Parmakian notes that changing the name of the walk was really just an acknowledgement of what everyone had already called it: "Bob’s Walk."
Chris Austin heads the Homeless Prevention Council in Orleans and has worked with Murray for 20 years.
"Bob is more than passionate about these issues. I have come to know him as one of the most selfless men I have ever met in my life. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He doesn’t need publicity to do the work he does, he is just a driven and inspiring man," she says.
Austin says that when some of her state funds were threatened last year, Murray went to great lengths to educate policymakers and legislators on the reasons why the council’s funding was critical.
Robin Wilkins, a board member for both HECH and the Falmouth Housing Corporation, says Murray has an uncanny ability to visualize solutions on the horizon.
"Bob Murray is a fascinatingly determined individual. When faced with a problem, he’ll call people and talk about tough issues and build real trust. As a result, people know that if he is doing a project, he'll get it done," says Wilkins.
"The walk should have been named after Bob years ago. His contributions to the Cape Cod housing community have been just extraordinary," Wilkins adds.
At 72, Bob has been slowed by medical difficulties involving complex skin and circulatory problems. Sustained walking can leave his feet raw and bleeding. At the end of recent housing walks, he’s been in severe pain. Just this year, he’s had 18 skin grafts to repair open sores.
"I hoped for 60 miles last year on the walk and did 70 but I paid such a high price with the damage. Much of that just refuses to heal," he says.
Murray says he’ll be involved in the walk this year, even if he has to ride a bike or in a car.
"I couldn’t imagine a summer without this," he says with a smile. "Housing to me is like life: You can’t get to a yes until you are willing to take the no’s and plow ahead."
By Jamie Balliet
Posted Jul. 11, 2012