Sharing Mr. Roosevelt Part.2

Roosevelt Darby Jr.

I met Roosevelt in the late 1980s, when he was part of a group of formerly homeless people working with local advocates and providers to develop some political momentum around the homelessness issue in Philadelphia. Through this, I also got connected to PCEH, where on my visits I quickly learned that he was the soul of the place. The men who went there, for help with basic social and work supports, found in Roosevelt a trusting, warm and gentle person who had been there, and who knew the struggle. He turned this into a keen observational skill about the barriers that various programs and policies in the city put before the men in the shelters and the streets. And he put a good deal of his career at PCEH, working with Phyllis, to root out those problems, and to press for the common sense changes that made the difference for so many people. It wasn't long before his reputation grew, and he was recognized beyond Philadelphia, for the professional contributions he could make to this field. I was a go-between on at least three occasions, in which national groups wanted to recruit Roosevelt. But, he wasn't easy to move; he was committed to his work in Philadelphia. I was surprised when he did finally decide to go to Atlanta, but equally pleased when he came back to Philly just a couple years ago. I was once again glad to serve as a reference for his new position in City government. And we all had such great expectations for his service there, and what he was going to be able to contribute. All of this just makes his disability now so distressing to any of us who knew both the scale of his contributions in the past, and his huge potential to transform the future -- a future that now seems so diminished without him.


By: Professor Dennis Culhane

Professor of Social Policy, Psychology, and Policy Research and Evaluation

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