A message from Patty Mullahy Fugere…
On December 21, 2016, Homeless Persons Memorial Day was held. Since 1990, people experiencing homelessness, advocates, activists, and other community members have used the Winter Solstice – the darkest day of the year – to celebrate the lives and mourn the passing of those who died homeless during the year.
Last night in DC, the People for Fairness Coalition (a group of men and women who have experienced homelessness or housing instability themselves, who now advocate for the right to housing and better responses to homelessness) held an overnight vigil on Freedom Plaza, across from the Wilson Building and in eyesight of the Capitol, the White House, and yes, the new Drumpf hotel. Literally within the shadows of power, those who were gathered shared fellowship and food, paid tribute to those who died this year, and committed themselves to doing all we could to get to a day when such gathering is needed no more. And we decided to choose hope.
I recently had a conversation with one of my young Legal Clinic colleagues about how things are looking in the world, and whether these are times of hope, or hopelessness. I was counseled once by a very wise friend, as my dad was dying, to “choose hope.” I don’t think she meant that she thought I should pray for a different outcome for my dear father, but rather that I could choose to embrace a different way of viewing life, a different way of understanding what was happening around me. A hope-filled view. A hope-filled understanding.
It is different than simply having an optimistic or pessimistic outlook on life, more than being a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty gal or guy. Choosing hope – for me – is choosing to believe in our collective ability to be a caring people, grasping on to the notion that we – and others – by our very nature, have the potential and possibility to be, and to do, good. To be people seeking justice.
Choosing hope – for me – is understanding that change happens at many levels, that transformation need not be a tidal wave, but rather can be the accumulation of a thousand tiny ripples. Each ripple – each eviction prevented, each person moved into permanent housing, each family admitted to shelter, each criminal record expunged, each job secured, each young person graduated – helps to transform the world into a more just place.
Choosing hope – for me – is choosing to be an active participant, rather than a spectator. It is being inspired by, and wanting to follow the example, of the People for Fairness Coalition, whose members are never found on the sidelines, no matter the contest, no matter the odds. PFC is always in the game. They choose hope, recognizing that it is sometimes a contact sport.
Choosing hope – for me – means embracing all that we are entitled to by virtue of our humanity – the right to housing, the right to participation, the right to clean water, the right to be respected and treated with dignity no-matter-what.
Choosing hope – for me – means honoring the lives of those who have passed, believing that their deaths are not in vain…that their singular ripples will unite and form the wave that we need to tell those in power that enough is enough. No more deaths.
To honor those who died homeless this year…..we choose hope.
John Craig Anderson
Edward “Eddie” Bryant
Andrew “JR’ Burton
Kenneth “Kanell” Ward
For many of us, this is the season of Advent. It is a time of waiting, of expectation, for the Coming. It is a time of darkness turned to light. It is a time of hope realized. On this day of the longest darkness, let us commit to working together until we see the light that will shine when every member of our community has a decent safe and affordable place to call home.
On this day of longest darkness, in honor of those named above and others whose names we will never know, we choose hope. We hope you will, too.
Note: Today (12/21) at noon, community members will gather at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 NY Avenue, for a memorial service for our neighbors who died homeless this year. All are welcome to attend.