RIP Mary Ann Luby -- Who Gave Me My Start As A Homeless Advocate

It is with great sadness that I say that Mary Ann Luby -- the woman who gave me my start as a homeless advocate -- passed away on November 29th, 2010 after a short battle with cancer (less than 2 weeks). While it stands to reason that she might've had cancer long before it was detected, I can definitely appreciate the fact that her suffering was cut short. She is greatly missed by myself and others nonetheless.

Mary Ann was one of two women who entered the Franklin School Shelter in mid-June 2006 to tell its 240 residents about the plans of former DC mayor Anthony Williams to close the shelter and to re-open the Gales School as a shelter with 120 beds, leaving half of us with nowhere to go. Mary Ann was a nun of the Dominican Order who did outreach work for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. The other woman was a community activist named Becky Sambol who fought for several different causes. They called a meeting amongst the shelter residents and about a dozen attended. That night we formed the Committee to Save Franklin shelter (CSFS).

Becky would remain involved for a couple of months and then bide her time with other endeavors. But Mary Ann was committed to one cause and one cause only -- the cause of the homeless. Mary Ann went with CSFS to meetings with various public officials. She helped us find our way through the maze of DC Government agencies to the people that could help us. She invited us to our first ICH (Inter-agency Council on Homelessness) meeting which was held in the One Judiciary Square Building with former city administrator Robert Bobb presiding. She told us about the National Coalition for the Homeless with its Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureau and encouraged us to become speakers. These are just some of the things that she did within the first 3 months after inspiring the formation of CSFS. To this day, I still attend ICH meetings and continue to speak for NCH.

I'd actually seen Mary Ann a couple of times before June 2006 as she came around to different breakfast programs to make announcements and circulate her publication called "Listen Up!" -- a one-page flier that she would type which informed the homeless about upcoming meetings and other events that were (or should've been) of interest to the homeless community as well as warn them about freeze alerts and instruct them on what to do during inclement weather. I attended a March 3rd, 2006 hearing at the Wilson Building (City Hall) as a result of her outreach. I would see her at least a couple more times between March and June, but had no idea at the time just how much she would come to mean to me in the months and years that followed.

In November of 2006 a committee member named David Pirtle taught me how to do e-mail. I would eventually begin to use e-mail to communicate problems being experienced by the homeless as well as work orders for needed repairs on the Franklin School Shelter to DC government. But at some point I also figured out that I could communicate a wide range of problems and questions to Mary Ann and get timely answers. She was never too busy to address my questions or concerns, whether I sent them via e-mail or stopped her when I saw her. I get a lot of credit for helping people; but, many folk don't realize how many times I simply e-mailed Mary Ann and left it up to her to take care of things.

In what would turn out to be the last months of her life mary Ann worked with STREATS to help create a job-training program for DC's homeless -- an effort that continues even now. However, what mary Ann is best known for is not what she did for the homeless, but rather what she taught them to do for themselves -- to advocate on their own behalf.

I was recently profiled by the Washington Post for how I advocate for the homeless pro bono and use the internet to educate the public about the issue of homelessness. (The article has yet to be published.) But the fact of the matter is that Mary Ann deserves much of the credit and recognition. But she wasn't in it for the glory -- a fact that I became acutely aware of as I tried to find pictures of her on the internet following her death and could only find one. Well, may this blog post and the many good things that people say and write about her begin to bestow upon her the praise that is due her for her dedication to the cause of the underprivileged as she rests in her heavenly home away from homelessness.

I'd be remiss if I didn't explain that even in her final moments Mary Ann was concerned with who would continue her work. That said, we honor her memory not by shedding tears for her, but rather by continuing her legacy of working tirelessly for solutions to homelessness and encouraging the homeless to stand up and speak out for themselves. (For what it's worth to you, that begins to explain why it took me until 8 days after her death to do this post -- I was busy advocating for the homeless.)

RIP mary Ann Luby.
We love you.

Well, what are you waiting for?!
Find something to do!


Anonymous said…
Read a recent Washington Post article on you. Very inspiring. The comments on the article were typical of the cynicism and ignorance in America unfortunately. Everyone seems to be on a "hate-train" every since Obama was elected President oddly enough. God forbid there will be a positive story about anybody let alone a black man who is giving more than taking. Keep up the good work Eric. There are people who genuinely appreciate your efforts!
Brian B said…
Eric, reading about Mary Ann was inspiring.

I'd like to let you know, that your hard and dedicated work has earned you the Bold Badge from BAZI.

We hope you will accept our award, we sent information to your email account.

Here is more info:

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