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Investigating Hadassah Robeson’s Gan Rivkah Center Part 1: Local Milford Media Promotes Troubled Women, Children, And Pets Shelter Despite Questionable Past

 

This is Hadassah Rose, AKA Hadassah Robeson, AKA Heidi Robeson, as well as several other names. 

She is the founder of the Gan Rivkah Center in Milford, which advertises itself as the only women’s and children’s center in the country that allows residents to keep their pets with them. According to their website they can accommodate up to 28 residents, although they sometimes claim to be able to fit 32 in other Facebook posts.

They’ve been a registered non-profit since 2013, but have not filed the required 990 tax forms for 2017 or 2018. When she first opened it was registered with the town as a daycare until February 2019, according to town officials. 

According to the Secretary of State’s corporations division Gan Rivkah Center, INC is registered with the state, but did not file an annual report as required for 2018.

The GRC does not get any government funding and survives almost exclusively on the charity of people in the community. However, over the years she’s been very successful at getting large corporations, small businesses, politicians such as State Rep Brian Murray and State Senator Ryan Fattman, local philanthropists, the Montgomery Lodge, the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, and every day folk who offer time, money, donations, clothing, and services to this alleged hidden treasure. 

Hadassah is on the deed for 16 but not 18 Cedar Street in Milford.

The former is the shelter itself, which is set back from the street, and the latter is where Hadassah lives with her husband Vladimir. A live-in disabled person named Eugenia lives with Hadassah at 18 Cedar Street, and sources tell us that the former resident at 16 Cedar Street offers part of her disability check to Hadassah as a deal to live there. However, according to the registrar’s records for the town of Milford, Eugenia is the only resident listed at 18 Cedar Street, while Hadassah and her two adult children are listed as residents at 16 Cedar (the shelter). 

Hadassah does not live at the shelter, but two of her adult children do.

According to the Worcester County Registry of Deeds, Hadassah is on the mortgage and deed for the shelter’s address, but not the house where she lives at 18 Cedar Street.

Also listed as an owner of both houses is a Lawrence Gochberg of Ohio, who Hadassah refers to as Dr. Gochberg. Mr. Gochberg is a generous donor and is frequently praised for his philanthropy on the GRC’s Facebook page. On several occasions Hadassah has referred to him as a brother. However, when I interviewed her she brought his name up, and when I asked who he was she became upset and insisted that he not be part of the story. She also refused to tell me what he is a doctor of. We can find no record of a Dr. Lawrence Gochberg in Massachusetts or Ohio. 

Lawrence Gochberg is held in very high regard on the GRC Facebook page, and is praised for his generosity.

Her husband Vladimir is referred to as the security supervisor, while her son David is called the “night security supervisor.”

Also praised frequently by Hadassah are Karen and Howard Gochberg, who are known to live in Minnesota, and are believed to be Lawrence’s parents.

Hadassah told me that Lawrence was her brother, but did not indicate if Karen and Howard are her parents.

Hadassah is also the owner of two businesses located on 319 and a half Main Street, called Trinkets and Treasures, and the Karma Cafe. Founded in 2017, the left hand side of the small building is the former, which sells used clothing and handmade crafts. The right hand side of the building is the Karma Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant composed of a few bar seats that all face a wall, and a single table that is reserved for musicians. Up until June 2019 the Karma Cafe was called the Bread Bowl Cafe, and was founded in 2018. Hadassah claims that these two businesses exist to fund the GRC, and that all proceeds go towards the shelter. 

The local media has been essential for spreading the word with positive coverage about the work being done at the relatively unknown shelter, and has acted as a conduit for donations. The Milford Daily News wrote a glowing article about the the GRC in December of 2013. 

“It was truly a blessing to find this place,” said Khristia of the shelter where she, her 4- and 9-year-old daughters and her 7-year-old son have been living for nearly three weeks. “It’s so warm and comfortable here and my kids are very happy.”

Khristia doesn’t know how long her family will be staying at Gan Rivkah, but Director Hadassah Rose said that’s just fine. Currently, there are 23 women and children calling the extended-stay shelter home. Rose, a full-time doctorate student, opened the shelter about five years ago. She began offering affordable day care, but, when a family using the service needed a place to stay, she offered to put her up.

Since then, the shelter has slowly grown, and this year officially became a 501 3c non-profit organization. The shelter is run with the help of Dr. Larry Gochberg and donations. Rose said women end up at Gan Rivkah for a variety of reasons, but noted it is often as they try to flee abusive home lives. The Milford police and other departments in the area often refer women to the shelter.

The article included a call to action for readers to donate to the GRC, and featured a picture of Hadassah holding a resident’s child. 

However, another MDN article from 2013 states that the GRC had been in business for years before that, and was actively accepting donations from a Westborough company. 

Westborough’s JCSI, a recruiting consulting company, collected gently used clothing, linens, blankets, non-perishable food, paper products, diapers and children’s items for the Gan Rivkah Center in Milford – a 24-hour extended stay emergency shelter for women and children. For three years, the center has provided clothing, food and shelter for women and children, many of whom are victims of domestic abuse, according to a JCSI press release.

In addition to delivering hundreds of items to the Gan Rivkah Center, JCSI employees helped the shelter complete some general repairs, such as replacing ceiling tiles and outside fencing, as well as providing holiday gifts and decorations for the children.

“I was so touched and the kids were thrilled,” said Hadassah Rose, the center’s director. “The financial pressure can be overwhelming – even just keeping up with the daily items such as paper products, towels, and snacks. JCSI came through with stuff we desperately needed.”

In February 2014 The Patch wrote an article promoting a fundraising event for the GRC, held by the Milford Performing Arts Center. In December 2017 the Metrowest Daily News published an article about the Gan Rivkah Center taking in guests with pets during the cold winter, and included a call to action for readers to donate. 

In February of 2018 local radio station My FM 101.3 wrote a piece singing the GRC’s praises as well.

The Gan Rivkah center offers free classes open to all women and children in Milford and surrounding communities for computers, job placement, ESL, GED as well as tutoring for all subjects. In addition, the Gan Rivkah Center also provides life experience classes including but not limited to: cooking, etiquette and elocution, self-defense, and cultural diversity. The center also offers personal development classes like creative writing, literature, religious studies, and gardening. 

The Gan Rivkah Center provides services and accommodations at no cost for our residents including but not limited to weekly laundry service, classes, therapy sessions, meals and snacks. Dinner is served in the upstairs dining hall in a family atmosphere. 

However, as we will see later on, many of the things Hadassah claims to offer are disputed, in particular, it’s not free for residents who stay there. The station did a podcast with her as well. 

Some statements made during that podcast which we will revisit later include:

  • Said she gets 15-30 calls a day from potential residents. 
  • Said she accommodates 32 beds. 
  • The shelter includes a “Beautiful play background area”
  • The shelter offers cooking and budgeting classes
  • On average women stay a couple months, but they can stay up to two years. 
  • She thanks Lawrence Gochberg, Karen and Howard Gochberg. 
  • “All of our volunteers are not paid,” then lists her family members David Robeson, Cassandra Robeson, and her husband Vladimir. 
  • Says the shelter became a shelter on accident when she let a woman stay there, and that the DTA recognized it as a shelter along with local police. 

We’ve spent the last three weeks researching this story. We’ve spoken with former residents, donors, volunteers, Hadassah, and members of Hadassah’s family. The conclusions we’ve reached, which we will break down for you in this multi-part series, are that:

  • Money donated by people does not go to where it’s intended to go
  • The bookkeeping is insufficient, and shows superfluous and irresponsible spending of donated money
  • Finances between her two businesses and the shelter are all together despite being completely separate legal entities
  • Donated items are often kept outside for long periods of time where they get rained on, while others are sold online and at yard sales without proper bookkeeping of transactions
  • People who have donated feel defrauded, and the low profile of the shelter allows them to stay unnoticed by the IRS
  • The shelter is a disgusting mess that no one should live in, and appears to be very dangerous and overcrowded
  • If as many people are staying there as Hadassah claims then they are in violation of state regulations
  • Residents are not allowed to eat meat in the house because Hadassah is a vegan
  • The GRC is really more of a paid boarding house than it is a women’s and children’s center, but because of its status Hadassah is able to evict people much faster than a landlord could (kicked one woman out in the middle of the night), and avoid regulations that make a landlord’s job difficult
  • Hadassah routinely violates the privacy of people who stay in her shelter and uses them in videos to solicit more donations, including victims of domestic violence
  • Several members of the community who have volunteered to help get the GRC out of debts have been castigated as forces of evil by Hadassah when they offer constructive and helpful criticism
  • Hadassah welcomes help, she just wants it to be on her terms, and sees volunteers mostly as people who can help her raise money that she spends as she sees fit
  • Hadassah lied about several programs offered by the GRC, and her adult children live upstairs rent free, where residents are banned from going
  • Hadassah is emotionally unstable, a habitual and pathological liar, and has no business running a shelter like this
  • Hadassah is emotionally abusive to her husband Vladimir, who barely speaks English, drives her around everywhere, and we are told is not a citizen and may or may not be here legally
  • When backed into a corner Hadassah cries on command, feigns health failures, portrays herself as a victim, and begins listing all of the magnificent things she does as a way to deflect from serious issues that need to be addressed
  • There are over 100 police calls to Hadassah’s house since 2005 for a variety of reasons
  • Hadassah has moved from state to state, her background information and employment is not verifiable, she may have used multiple social security numbers, and her claims of working towards a PhD and having a Master’s Degree are suspect
  • During my interview with her in which she allowed me to look through several months of her financials, she screamed at me several times, kicked me out of her store, accused me of bullying her and siding with the people who are allegedly bullying her
  • She promised me she would send her books for 2017-2019 to TB Daily News after we met, but has since blocked this author on Facebook and is not returning phone calls

We also contacted and visited the GRC undercover, posing as a consumer in need, and discovered that the fees to stay at this “homeless shelter” are steep, the operations are completely unorganized and inadequate, and many of Hassadah’s public claims are completely contradicted privately in the way she presents to residents attempting to come in. We’ve found Hassadah’s Gan Rivkah center to be a predatory, unethically and deceptive racket that preys on the areas most vulnerable population – homeless women and children – while using donations solicited with help from the media to do it. 

The most alarming part about this story are the failures of the town of Milford, and in particular the Board of Health and Fire Department for allowing this “shelter” to continue doing business like this. The Milford Police have been extremely helpful, and the vibe I get from them is that they want this place shut down since its been so problematic. They are all well aware of what is going on. We are writing these blogs because aside from the police it appears as if they’ve failed to do their job, as has the Milford Daily News and other local media that contributed to this mess by promoting the GRC without doing proper research. 

This is part 1 of what is expected to be a 5 part series, with one blog being published each day. There was so much information coming in on this story that it was hard and time consuming to organize, but this is how we ultimately best thought it could be categorized:

Part 1 – Media helps create monster

Part 2 – How the house and businesses work

Part 3 – Hadassah’s history and personality

Part 4 – Expenditures and mismanagement of money

Part 5 – Interviews with volunteers and former residents

 

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4 Comments

  1. There is an almost identical place in New Bedford, called bah tikvah or something like that. Also goes under the name “house of hope” on mt.pleasant st. Absolute shit hole and seriously could copy and paste this article just switch the name Hadessa to “rev.” Bob. Total controlling megalomaniac who collects everyone’s food stamps and welfare money to spend as he and his wife are fit while the residents live in squalor. Turtle boy should investigate them next! They. Like be connected, it seems they are at least abusing the same tax/moral loop holes!

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