Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless Is Hospitalized

 Donate on behalf of Michael Stoops

It saddens me to report that MichaelStoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has fallen quite ill. He was found on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 collapsed on the floor at the office where he worked about 70 hours per week. It is good that this very private man had his health crisis at the office rather than while home alone. It would have been better for him not to have had a health crisis at all. I received two calls about Michael on Monday and have visited him on Tuesday and today, June 10th.

With Michael's next of kin being his sister who lives in Indiana, the hospital has designated Jerry Jones of NCH, Michael's sister and a close family friend as the three contacts who are privy to the prognosis reports. Even so, NCH might not have the capacity to field innumerable calls.

People are coming together to figure out both how best to support Michael through his recovery and how to fill his shoes in both the immediate and in the long term. One of the ways in which it's been agreed that I can be helpful is by posting information pertaining to visitation and, in the most discreet manner, by keeping people abreast of his prognosis. I've been asked to divulge the following information:

Though Michael's work benefits the 4,000,000 Americans who experience homelessness each year, he has always been the “slight man in the basement office”. He never cared to be in the lime light, though it's hard for me to imagine you reading 10 articles about national homeless trends without seeing his name. That said, we should try not to crowd the waiting room with visitors.

BE ADVISED that, while the ICU waiting room at George Washington University Hospital has about 30 seats, the medical staff will not allow more than three people to visit Mike at one time – up from the usual two-person limit because Michael touches so many lives. I've warned Nurse Joanna “Jo” that, hypothetically speaking, there could 15 people who come separately or in five groups of three to see Michael and unwittingly crowd Michael's space. If this should be the case, no more than three people will be allowed at Michael's bedside at a time. Just this morning I was there with two other people when a fourth arrived and had to wait.

BE FURTHER ADVISED that there is limited metered parking. You can park at the University Parking garage on H Street NW between 22nd and 23rd streets (under the Science and Engineering Hall. The first hour is $10. The second hour is an additional $6. The daily max is $22. Add an 18% DC parking tax to each. The weekend daily max is $12. HOWEVER, the subway entrance for the Foggy Bottom Station (orange and Blue Lines) is less than 50 feet from the hospital entrance.

Staff and interns at NCH are discussing how they'll mitigate this situation and will let it suffice that they address such matters internally. However, they've brought a book to Michael's bedside to be signed by the many visitors we expect him to have. While we encourage all who feel the urge to go and visit Michael Stoops and to sign the book while there, NCH is working to create alternate means whereby people can send their well wishes. There will soon be an e-mail address and possibly other electronic alternatives like a Facebook page that people can send their well wishes to. There is much value in these printed well wishes (hard copy and electronic) insomuch as they can be read to Michael by visitors, serve as indications to his sister and other loved ones of how many lives he touched and be used to compile an on-line tribute to Michael's life and work.

Michael experienced homelessness in 1961 at age 11 while living with his grandfather. He decided to commit himself to addressing homelessness. He joined the peace Corps and later worked for Americorps Vista. Michael was involved in the “Mitch Snyder Movement” of the 70's and 80's. NCH was established in 1982 and served as the fiscal sponsor for the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) Homeless Shelter until the latter achieved 501(c)3 non-profit status. NCH housed the original office of Street Sense until the latter moved to 1317 G Street NW. He and others from the "Mitch Snyder Movement" influenced the creation of organizations like the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The “slight man in the basement office” was behind efforts that led to:

1 – Homeless people obtaining the right to vote in every state and the District
2 – Unprovoked attacks against homeless people being designated as hate crimes
3 – The exposure of “bum fight” videos wherein mentally incompetent and/or chemically-dependent homeless people where paid to participate in videotaped fights
4 – Tens of thousands of people in thousands of high school, college, university and church groups learning about homelessness
5 – Reports and news pieces that address the atrocity that is American homelessness and that offer solutions.

Other NCH speakers and I often tell the groups to whom we've spoken “NCH has successfully sued every department of the federal government.....with the exception of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. And if they ever deny a camping or a fishing license to a homeless person, we gonna sue them too. So, you can imagine that the folk at the Department of Fish and Wildlife are saying, 'you're homeless??? you want a camping or a fishing license??? you got it, man!!! Just don't sue us. Let us maintain our designation as the one department of the federal government that has never been sued by NCH' (successfully of unsuccessfully)”.

Michael's mild manner belies the fierceness of his dedication and the breadth and depth of his impact on the lives of millions of homeless people and the work of many advocates. He is a force to be reckoned with. The rather unassuming “slight man in the basement office” is already being missed as he lies in his hospital bed. Let's hope that he has a speedy recovery.

But regardless of how Michael comes out of this current situation, the advocacy community needs to chart a path forward in which Michael plays a less active advisory role. We should start by:

Showing the awesome hour-long film “Promises to Keep” which can be obtained on DVD or streamed off of the web and discussing how advocacy and the state of homelessness have advanced since 1988 when the renovation of the Federal City Shelter/CCNV was completed.

Asking WHUT which is our local PBS affiliate to do an updated version of “Promises to Keep” which highlights the piecemeal closure of the shelter which will begin in the fall of 2015 and which includes segments about the good and bad trends in homelessness that have occurred on a local and national basis as well as the federal and local governments' reactions to these trends.

Thank you


BKy LeeWilson said…
Thank you, Eric. Well said!

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