With a heavy heart, CSH shares the sad news that longtime supportive housing advocate and member of the CSH board of directors, Dorothy Edwards, 66, has passed away.
Dorothy joined the CSH board in 2014 and was an inaugural member of the CSH Speak Up! program. Through Speak Up!, Dorothy cultivated her voice as a tireless advocate for supportive housing and worked to destigmatize people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and substance use disorder.
Dorothy's story is not just one of personal triumph; it's a testament to the transformative power of support, compassion, and second chances. For numerous years, she experienced homelessness and struggled with mental illness and substance use disorder in Los Angeles before making her way to Pasadena. There, an insistent outreach worker convinced her to consider supportive housing and connected her to a home at Housing Works, a local nonprofit supportive housing developer and operator. She found hope at Housing Works, where she was not just embraced, but uplifted and eventually hired as a Peer Advocate.
Through a safe apartment, financial support, counseling, and a community, Dorothy began her journey toward recovery, healing, and self-discovery, which led to her finding her voice as a Speak Up! advocate and board member with CSH. Dorothy showed us that even in the most challenging of obstacles, we possess the power to rebuild our lives.
As a board member and Speak Up! advocate, Dorothy lent her unique perspective and an unwavering passion to the organization. Her insight, forged through her personal journey, has been invaluable in shaping the path of our work and the minds of many elected officials. She met with lawmakers in California and Washington D.C., including U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA). Impressed with Dorothy's passion and knowledge about the barriers that keep people trapped in cycles of homelessness, Rep. Chu recognized her with the Congressional "Woman of the Year" award. Also, Dorothy received coverage in national media, including USA TODAY and Washington Monthly. Dorothy's advocacy reminded us that every individual is a reservoir of untapped potential, and with opportunity and support, they, too, can overcome the most daunting obstacles.
In an Op-Ed she penned in late 2021 in support of President Biden's Build Back Better bill and to counter a vocal campaign to discredit Housing First, Dorothy wrote that "policy failure comes not from Housing First but from the fact that we have invested too little in affordable housing, services, and fair wages in our country, resulting in the scores of individuals and families experiencing homelessness." She added, "People don't decide to become homeless. Homelessness starts with a need. A need for a job with a living wage, a need for a home they can afford, a need to access healthy food, supports, and a need to be part of a community. These are basic human needs."
Today, we remember Dorothy not only for her personal triumphs but for her indomitable spirit, her commitment to CSH, Housing Works, and countless peers, and her unwavering belief in the power of recovery and second chances. Her legacy is a reminder that every life is worth saving, every story is worth hearing, and every person is capable of achieving greatness.
Dorothy is survived by her partner Vic, her beloved dog, Ziggy, family members, colleagues, and friends.
In her honor, we continue to work diligently to advance affordable housing and the support and resources that allow others to find their own paths to success, just as Dorothy did. We will forever be grateful for her dedication and inspiration.
Dorothy, you are an enduring symbol of the extraordinary strength of the human spirit, and we will carry your memory with us in our mission to create a better, more compassionate world.