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In Memory of Roosevelt Darby Jr.

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Speakers' Bureau

It is with great sadness that we again mourn the loss of a great advocate for people experiencing homelessness, and a great friend of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Roosevelt Darby spent 20 years working to end homelessness, serving as an NCH Board Member for over 10 years, actively serving on the Executive Committee.  Recently, Roosevelt had shared his talents with the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and had been featured in an NCH video talking about his experience with homelessness.  Roosevelt and his compassionate friendship will be greatly missed.

Here, a few of the current NCH Staff and Board Members share their memories of Roosevelt:

As NCH’s longtime community organizer, I first came into contact with Roosevelt Darby, Jr. in 1992.   He was active in a number of our projects ranging from voter registration, civil rights, to establishing a statewide homeless coalition.

His special focus was working with single homeless men having substance abuse issues.   He was also adept in motivational public speaking, advocacy, and community organizing.

Due in large part to Roosevelt Darby, NCH became more focused on doing community organizing work at the grassroots level.

-Michael Stoops, Washington, DC

I remember Roosevelt’s time with us with warm and gentle thoughts.  When we had the TA grant I went to Pennsylvania at his request to help organize his Board and staff.  It was a wonderful three day retreat and the first and only time I have ever been to Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Roosevelt got someone to take me there as the retreat wasn’t far away.  His passion and his life experience made for a wonderfully humane approach to housing the homeless and truly building community.  He will be missed by his family, his NCH family, his friends, and most by those he served.

-Barbara Anderson, Indiana

During the years Roosevelt spent with us on the Board, we joked about wanting to work together some day.  Then one day he called me from Philly and asked if I had been serious.  He came to Atlanta and ran our Recovery Program for nearly two years, leaving only because we had no more funding for the program and no ability to pay staff at all.

During those two years Roosevelt worked his gentle, straightforward magic with amazing and steady results that left us with leaders who have continued his work with themselves and have helped us continue that Recovery Program, which they call The Buddy System.

Roosevelt shared himself, his heart and his journey, with each person he coached into sobriety.  We are better people and a better place because of Roosevelt’s time with us, and his legacy lives on in the lives of the men.

-Anita Beaty, Georgia

Roosevelt Darby was leader. He fought the demons of poverty his whole life. He fought his way off the streets and away from drugs.

He didn’t mind talking about his life. He was cautious yet quick with a smile if something resonated with his experiences.

There came a time in his life that he came to realize that poverty had been imposed upon him and so so many others. He became a Tax Day Captain and a Bridge Captain for the Universal Living Wage. He told the truth to anyone who would listen. He became a street warrior justice.

He was a gentle man. He’s gone home now.

Thank you Roosevelt for reaching back. Thank you Jesus for sharing this kind soul with us.

-Richard Troxell, Texas

Roosevelt was a true friend and absolute warrior for people experiencing homelessness.  He will be greatly missed.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the city of Philadelphia.

-Donald Whitehead, Florida

I join all others in grief. Do give thanks to God for having met Roosevelt, and will pray that he keeps on helping us on our struggle for justice.

-Glorin Ruiz Patush, Puerto Rico

Brian Davis of Cleveland, OH also offers this reflection on working with Roosevelt.

Please read more about Roosevelt’s in this nice article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In Fond Memory of Jesse Smith Jr.

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Speakers' Bureau

The Homeless and DC community has lost a strong advocate and good friend in Jesse Smith, who passed away quietly in his sleep last week. All of us at the National Coalition for the Homeless send our sincere condolences to Jesse’s family and friends. We are so grateful for the passion Jesse brought to each presentation he gave with the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau, and for the friendship he gave to each one of us.

Jesse and I were AmeriCorps buddies.  We started as VISTA volunteers under the purview of the National Coalition for the Homeless in the fall of 2006.  Jesse was filling the position of Vendor Manager at Street Sense, and I the Development Associate at NCH.

Every new AmeriCorps VISTA is required to go through a few day’s training called the Pre-Service Orientation, or lovingly, the PSO.  Out of the 200 or so brand new VISTAs at our PSO in fabulous suburban Wilmington, DE, Jesse had to have been one of the oldest (if not THE oldest), but his enthusiasm to make a difference far surpassed that of all the freshly graduated, doughy-eyed, young do-gooders.

Jesse and I bonded over being “bleeding-hearts.” I had the pleasure of accompanying Jesse on several out of town Speakers’ Bureau presentations, and each time, Jesse’s interest never wavered. He seemed to derive endless delight from educating audiences about homelessness, and for talking with students about how they could make a difference in their communities, and he would often talk long after the allotted presentation time was up. He was absolutely floored when we spoke at a sold out Empty Bowls fundraising dinner at Harrisburg Area Community College that was inspired by one student who had seen Jesse speak the previous school year.

There are so many memories that come to mind, but I know Jesse touched the lives of so many others, and we will all hold those memories close in remembrance. May Jesse’s spirit of justice and camaraderie continue to inspire our work as advocates to end homelessness!

One of the many Faces of Homelessness

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Speakers' Bureau

Ever wondered what its like to experience one of NCH’s Faces Of Homelessness presentations?  Here a long-time supporter describes seeing NCH Board Member Donald Whitehead give a presentation recently in Florida:

They say that clothes make the man. In yesterday’s case the clothes worn by Donald Whitehead certainly made an impression with the students at Spanish River High in Boca Raton, Florida.

Not knowing who he was, all eyes were on the homeless man walking through their campus on the way to the lecture hall. He then took a seat in the front of the auditorium. The kids continued to stare and whisper and ask one another how this street person got on campus and why he was now sitting in their auditorium.

He was then introduced as the speaker. He made his way to the podium and the room went totally silent. In his soft voice Donald began to tell his story. He spoke about his successes and failures; his experiences on the street and in shelters.

Complaining of the heat in the room he began to take off his clothes. The audience was on the edge of their seats not knowing what this homeless man was capable of doing. Absolute amazement as the suit and tie appeared from under his “street wear”. To the students his new clothes represented the progress and successes he has made in his life.

Donald posing with students, and his Emmy

The students asked questions. They were inquisitive about his addiction and the abuse.

Donald said no one is above homelessness. The subject of homeless kids in schools was also discussed as well as the rise of homeless college and graduates living in shelters and on the streets.

Donald’s final point really hit home. The majority of attacks on the homeless are made by high school kids.

All the kids appreciated the visit, gave him a resounding applause and many students came to the stage to shake his hand.

By Jeff Firestone
Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County

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