Joe Wilson is the Executive Director of Hospitality House in San Francisco. He has worked with and for the community there since 1983.
I’m proud to be part of recognizing Paul’s longevity and accomplishments – as well as his unflinching commitment to the struggle for justice and human rights for unhoused folks.
Paul and I met when I was sleeping in Hospitality House’s (HH) shelter in 1983. He referred me to one of my first paid jobs, washing Muni buses. I got my first paycheck in the mail after being homeless, using HH as a mailing address. Because of Paul.
I was one of the eight founding members of the (San Francisco) Coalition on Homelessness (COH) in December 1987, but it was always Paul’s vision. Building a voice of, by, and for unhoused people – independent of government money so it could always speak truth to power, the voices of the people directly affected by poverty and homelessness. Paul was COH director for 16 years (and has been WRAP’s founding Director since leaving COH). Paul hired the original editor of the Street Sheet street newspaper right out of college – Lydia Ely, who is still around by the way. His vision for the Street Sheet still remains. No bylines, just the truth from the street. Unhoused people speaking for themselves.
We also wrote a policy paper on transitional housing that was adopted as City policy and was the blueprint that created the Community Housing Partnership (now Home Rise) in San Francisco. That also was Paul’s vision – housing that would have temporary staff but permanent tenants, and a living community that supported each other, looked after each other, and grew together.
Paul is my friend, my mentor, my “brother from another mother” – for 40 years, he has lifted up the best of our struggle, and he’s reminded us time and again, we don’t always have to win, but we can always keep fighting. Always.