Maria Prado remembers darker days when she lived underground.
Tall and slender with a short salt and pepper bob, Prado has made a big transition over the years, from subway tunnel dweller to the founder of a soon-to-open shelter for women in Mott Haven. Transitioning Forward will serve women experiencing homelessness, providing single-room occupancy housing and a drop-in center for a population that has endured domestic violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking.
“Everyone is welcome,” said Prado, who is a state-certified mental health aide. “As young as they come, as old as they come. No matter color, creed or religion. If you need help, you are welcome.”
For 20 years Prado, who is now 59, lived the life ofa “mole person.” She was one of the thousands of homeless New Yorkers who find shelter beneath the city streets, in subway tunnels and subterranean caverns. She was 35 when she moved underground with seven people.